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Who Do You Recommend for a Parenting Coordinator or Consultant?

Approved Seal by Naypong

 

As someone who has been working for almost 20 years to help parents navigate the very choppy waters of family court, I get a fair amount of calls and emails from parents who feel overwhelmed with how off track their case has become.  High conflict cases snowball into unimagineable craziness and parents desperately want to find ways to make it stop.  Much of the craziness doesn’t really come from court.  It really comes from the behavior of one or both parents.  When you get sucked into the vortex of the land of upside down and backwards, AKA family court, there is little that the legal system can offer to fix it.  Everything depends on the level of the cooperation between parents and their willingness to accept the reality of the situation and follow the prescripts that court professionals have to offer.  Unfortunately, there is no magic fairy dust.  There are no gold plated court orders that will make someone “follow the rules” or court orders.  Parenting is not an exact science, whether a couple is happily married or whether they are angrily, hostiley, vindictively or hatefully divorced.  The problem for divorced people is that you cannot put parenting on hold.  Married couples sometimes alternate parenting between each parent because they do not fear the other has plans to take the children away, but divorced parents battle over who gets to do what, often because fear or hurt feelings are driving the parenting.  Court orders cannot magically take fear or hurt feelings away.

In many cases, parents work through their fears and hurt feelings, and divorce drama can settle down to a level that will make the situation workable for children and parents, but in the case of high conflict, the battle continues to rage without end.  It is possible for the craziness to not only stay the same, but to increase.  It happens because one or both parents are very rigid and demanding and they are unable or unwilling to look at how they contribute to the conflict.  Until both parents can examine how they got to this point, there really is no way to move them forward.  So, even though the real burden is always on the parents, desperate parents beg the court for help.

Family court doesn’t have much to offer that will be of much help to you.  They operate with no-fault ideas for divorce.  You can blame all day long, but they don’t want to hear about it.  Court operates under “the best interests of the child” doctrine, which means that the court has been elevated to the keeper of your child’s best interests, regardless of what a parent might think their child’s best interests are, and the most they can offer you is usually some type of mental health services.  Even then, their options for mental health services in high conflict situations are a blend of law and psychology and sometimes, neither specialty does what it is supposed to do.  If those areas don’t work together, but are in conflict with each other they add more drama to the mix.  You end up being at the mercy of the biases and ideals that the professionals hold, often outside of court and outside of the application of law, but that is what they have to offer you if you cannot make it workable yourself.

About the only thing they can offer, once the Judgement and Decree has been signed, sealed and delivered, is  the services of a Parenting Consultant or Parenting Coordinator.  The term Parenting Consultant is exclusive to Minnesota.  The rest of the world calls them Parenting or Parent Coordinators.  What these professionals do is to act as a neutral party, who will case manage the parents’ communication and conflict, try to help the parents cooperate and make agreements about the children, but they will also make a decision when the parents are unable to agree.  It can be helpful, but it can also be a prison sentence.

Because of my personal and professional background in family court, parents seek out my wisdom on who they should choose as their parenting consultant.  Since I am in Minnesota, I know specifics about some of the PCs here.  Because I work one on one with parents as a divorce and conflict coach or parent educator, I have seen samplings from many of our local PCs and I know how they think or react.  That can be helpful when someone asks me who they should choose as a PC, but truthfully, you just cannot know how a PC will act in your case.

Over the years, I have had favorite PCs.  There have also been some PCs that I tell people to steer clear of.  Still, it is a hard call.  PCs can burn out.  PCs can come up with ideas that they think are really good and then see that they go bad.  PCs charge you a lot of money for their services and so if that is their sole motivation, they may enjoy seeing the conflict increase.  Every so often I see a PC do a phenomenal job and I recommend that individual very highly, but then something happens and they do a terrible job on the next case.  Did they suffer from burn out?  Are they too overloaded with cases?  Word gets around if they seem to know what they are doing.  Did they get ill?  Are they just tired of the pettiness?  What you may not understand is high conflict is not only stressful for you, but also stressful for the professionals.  I can speak to how difficult it is to witness some of the things parents will do to their child on a daily basis and be unable to do enough to put a stop to it or make the parent see their role in the conflict.  Performing the role of PC is not easy.  Being a prisoner (parent) of the role is frustrating, to say the least.

What you must remember is this.  The individuals who fill the role are human, just like you.  They make mistakes.  They get stressed.  They have no magic formula to make people cooperate, treat each other decently, put their children first, or “follow the rules”.  Your conflict may be different from the conflict they’ve managed in other families.  While conflict is very similarly rooted, the underlying issues or triggers may be different.  The interaction between parents may be very different.  The histories between parents may be very different.  The children’s personalities may be very different.  Parent’s personalities may clash with the personality of the Parenting Coordinator/Consultant.  A PC may be too passive to make a difference for you or they may be too aggressive to change an aggressive parent.  You can never really know how things will go in your particular case.

If you are planning to appoint a Parenting Coordinator/Consultant to your case or are struggling with one that you currently have, I strongly recommend coaching services.  Your approach to the process and with the professional will determine how well it can work.  Coaching can help you understand what is happening, especially when it makes no sense to you.  For more information on why your family cannot move forward, contact us.  We are always happy to see if we can make a difference for you and your child.

Also, regardless of where you live, if you have any recommendations for a Parenting Consultant or Parenting Coordinator, leave a comment.  Parents want to know about different professionals so that they don’t choose the wrong one.  Your feedback may spare another parent from a lot of grief.  Always keep in mind though, if a parent has approached the situation with ill intent, they probably will have a hard time with the PC on their case.  Everything is about perception.

Follow High Conflict Central.  Our goal is to help parents make a better life for themselves and their children.  You can read more about that here and here.  We are assembling a team of divorce mentors around the country.  If this is something you are interested in, either finding a mentor or training to become a mentor, contact us today.

PC services are part of what is offered by Life’s Doors Mediation, a sponsor of High Conflict Central.  Reach out to them if you are looking for PC services.  To learn about the difference between a PC and a PTE, sign up for our free e-course on the topic.

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Parental Alienation and the High Conflict Myth — Karen Woodall

A conflict, by definition, must involve two or more sides (unless it is within you). Therefore if parental alienation is about high conflict divorce it must mean that both of you are fighting. Or does it? One of the biggest myths that I encounter […]

via Parental Alienation and the High Conflict Myth — Karen Woodall

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High Conflict Central-Win the Battle, End the War

High Conflict Central Logo. All rights reserved.

High Conflict Central was created by parents, for parents. Even though a couple of our coaches now work in different capacities in alternative dispute resolution processes, we all started out in your shoes and conquered the worst of high conflict divorce. Some of us even challenged bad custody evalutions and successfully motioned the court for sole physical and legal custody to free our children from a family court prison. We want to help you do the same.

High Conflict Central offers live and online training to help you learn to Manage Conflict, improve communication, work with and understand court authorities, such as Lawyers, Parenting Coordinator/Consultants, Guardian ad Litems and even Child Protection Workers, not to mention, learn ways to bring peace back to your home and keep your children out of the middle. Check out our free e-courses!

To see everything High Conflict Central has to offer divorced parents and victims of domestic violence, including divorced parent mentors, visit our website. We are here for divorced parents, and we will do whatever we can to ensure that you remain a strong parent who is involved in your children’s lives! Your children need you.

Our Number One Goal:

To teach you to be the strongest, most engaged parent you can be at this time when children need you the most, and, if necessary, to compensate for what is lacking in the other household. To shift the focus away from what is beyond your control and focus, instead, on what is.

Goal Number Two:

To help you acquire skills to live life to the fullest, regardless of the behavior of anyone else and successfully work with court authorities to achieve your goals.

Goal Number Three:

Finally, our goal is to ensure that children have the love and guidance from at least one parent to keep them out of the middle of conflict and teach them healthy relationship skills so that family cycles of abuse and dysfunction do not repeat.

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Living Rent Free in Your Head

Image courtesy of nattavut at freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of nattavut at freedigitalphotos.net

When you devote much of your day in fear of your ex, or thinking about what your ex is doing, you are allowing them to live rent free in your head.  It is completely understandable that if you have had many negative experiences with your ex and experienced a prolonged, bitter custody battle, you would become afraid of having to deal with them in the future.  Still, the best thing to do is to get them out of your head and out of your life as much as possible.

I do not want to make light of the situation.  I hope to help people move forward and stop giving their ex more attention than they deserve.  If you have become overwhelmed with thoughts and fears about your ex, you have to work on changing your thinking.  It is not going to happen over night, but it can be done.  You will have to work hard at it and things may get worse before they get better.  What I mean by that is the controlling, abusive, meddling ex will do their best to make you fail in your quest for freedom.  That is reason enough why you must do it.  When you start paying less and less attention to them and no longer cower in fear of them, they are going to get in your face a little more before they slither away and the fact remains, they may never slither away completely.  You see, the problem is not with you.  It is with them.

Your ex has been masterful at turning the tables on you and keeping you off balance.  Because their behavior is not normal, you may be confused about why they are behaving the way they are.  Worse, you may also be confused by the realization that in the real world, people view your ex as very nice, smart, thoughtful, etc., and they may have a new relationship that seems just peachy which makes you  wonder if you really are the problem.  Trust me, you are not the problem.

Keep in mind that most people in the real world only get a glimpse of who your ex really is and when your ex wants to, he or she can really turn on the charm.  The same goes for the new relationship.  They must make their new partner see you as a crazy person.  It helps them ensure that you will never go near their new partner and that they will steer clear of you as well.  No one can talk to each other that way.  The angry ex’s secrets do not get divulged.  This keeps their new love in the dark about who they really are and it helps keep you wondering what the heck is going on…and they LOVE that.  Remember how they treated you early on and how wonderful you thought they were.  The new partner will also be charmed.

They LOVE having you fear them.  They LOVE living in your head rent free.  They don’t even have to do anything to control you because you fear them so much and try to anticipate what they will do next, you are putting them in control.  They don’t have to put any energy into it.  You are doing the work for them!  It feeds their ego to know that they are always on your mind.

So how do you go about changing things?

First things first, you have to put your fear behind you.  You may even need to get angry.  You also need to retrain your brain to stop any and all thoughts of your ex whenever they crop up.

Second, have a diversion.  If you are overwhelmed thinking about what your ex may or may not do about any given issue, have a friend or a hobby or even look for a new love interest and whenever you just cannot shake the evil ex thoughts, call on that person or take some time to work on your new activity.  If you choose a hobby, make sure that it is something that will keep you busy.  Reading sometimes will not work because if your mind keeps wandering, you will not really be reading.  Try exercise, too, and some stress reduction techniques, such as deep breathing, mediation or swinging your arms back and forth for 10 minutes.  Trust me, it works.

Third, carve out “ex free” time.  When you have the luxury of your child spending time at the other parent’s house or with grandma and grandpa or their friends, carve it out.  Announce to yourself that you will not give your ex anymore time than they have already taken from you.

This can be done, trust me, I have done it.  It takes some time and some practice, but once you master retraining your brain, the less you will think about your ex or care about your ex.  It will become habit to you and you will be well on your way to a new and happier life.  One last thing, it is natural to want to put your life on hold for fear that your ex will ruin anything that makes you happy, but that is just giving them more control over your life.  You do NOT want to do that.  Write down on a piece of paper in big letters the following:

NOT ONE MORE DAY.  MY EX WILL NOT GET ONE MORE DAY OF MY LIFE.  MY EX HAS BEEN LIVING RENT FREE IN MY HEAD FOR YEARS AND TODAY IS HIS EVICTION NOTICE.  HE/SHE NEEDS TO GET OUT OF MY HEAD AND OUT OF MY THOUGHTS AND OUT OF MY LIFE STARTING RIGHT NOW.  I DO NOT DESERVE TO BE TREATED THE WAY I AM BEING TREATED.  I DESERVE TO BE HAPPY.

And then go live it.  If you want to find a new love, seek them out.  Your ex may try to meddle and he/she may try to make things difficult for you in unimaginable ways, but you are stronger than he or she is.  Much stronger.  They have a sickness that they probably cannot escape, but you will choose to get healthier.  You will take steps to ensure that you never choose the same kind of psychopath as a partner again, and you won’t.  Your new love will love you and because they love you so much, they will see what your ex is doing and they will stand by you no matter what.

When you see it, you will believe it and achieve it!

Image courtesy of Nattavut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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What is Parallel Parenting?

 
Image courtesy of digitalart at freedigitalphotos.net

 

Even the most skeptical of parents think that once the legal paperwork is all signed sealed and delivered, everything will be fine and they will move beyond the relationship they had before the divorce.  During the divorce process, professionals likely assured them that they would be able to co-parent and share in parenting responsibilities and continue the relationship they’ve had with their child or perhaps even build a better relationship.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen that way. 


Co-parenting requires parents to communicate regularly and frequently.  Given that life can change on a dime and schedules can sometimes get interrupted by things that are beyond our control, the best of divorced parents are able to be flexible with their schedules and adapt to changes without much difficulty or make adjustments to their plans and the distribution of parenting responsibilities as they need to, but few families can really achieve that level of commitment or cooperation when the divorce is over.  For a high number of parents, the fighting they experienced during the divorce process does not end with a decree and sometimes, it ramps up. Even though they previously drafted carefully worded agreements on how they would manage parenting responsibilities and different conflicts and scenarios, the agreements do not work when the parents try to put them into practice.  Either one of the parents will not follow the agreement or each parent has a different interpretation of what the words on the paper actually mean.  On top of that, some parents find their co-parent uses information against them or tries to manipulate the parenting time schedule by scheduling appointments, activities and play dates on the other parent’s time without permission.   It is beyond frustrating to live that way.  So what can be done to change it?

Parents who struggle with co-parenting can try a style called parallel parenting. For those whose interactions are moderately or highly conflicted, parallel parenting can be a way to move forward when co-parenting proves to be too difficult for them to manage successfully. Unfortunately, court professionals rarely suggest parallel parenting as an option.   Some professionals want to push you to co-parent no matter what because it offers your child the best chance for success in the future, while others naively think that the contention will die down once parents put the legal system behind them. It is naive to think that relationship problems or significant communication problems will magically disappear and foster cooperation if they have never been addressed.  It is also fairly common to find professionals out there who have never heard of parallel parenting.  If the professionals you encounter have no concept of what parallel parenting is, how can they explain that it is an option to you? They can’t, and that is very unfortunate because parallel parenting can help parents move away from conflict to keep their child out of the middle of it.


So what is parallel parenting anyway?  Parallel parenting is a style of parenting that allows parents to disengage and reduce the frequency of interactions they have with each other.  It allows each parent to operate independently of the other and manage their own day to day parenting responsibilities.  Parents will still need to communicate about important issues that are related to their child, and make major decisions together, but they will only communicate when necessary. Typically all communication will take place in written form, such as via email.  


Parallel parenting is not ideal and it tends to put a higher burden on the the child to adjust to two different sets of households, routines and rules so that the parents do not have to make adjustments that they are not ready or willing to make, but it does not have to be a permanent arrangement.  Sometimes, parallel parenting is used only until both parents have come to terms with the situation or while they take measures to work through hurt feelings following contentious legal battle.  However, some parents will continue parallel parenting until the children are grown and there is nothing wrong with that.  While it is best when parents can co-parent and work together to parent their children after divorce, if they cannot, parallel parenting is better than always being in a state of conflict, arguing over who is right, being disrespected or having to rely on someone you learned long ago was unreliable and it protects children from being caught in the middle of the battle.

Parents are humans.  Humans have different ways of coping and managing disappointments and hurts.  It’s just the nature of the beast that some humans have the skill set to be resilient while others need significant time to heal, deal or feel.  You cannot put a time limit on grieving the loss of a relationship, nor can you decree it be done.  You also cannot make someone cooperate with you or communicate well if they do not want to.  Co-parenting requires a good faith effort on the part of both parents and an ability to separate their own feelings from the feelings of their child.  It also helps when parents have good communication skills and maintain healthy boundaries.  Still, the odds that a couple held all those qualities and ended up divorced seems illogical.  Most relationships break up for a reason and that reason has be set aside or forgiven in order to form a successful co-parenting relationship. When not set aside or forgiven, parents need to find other ways of sharing their children peacefully.

What are some of the reasons to try parallel parenting?

  1. One or both parents still holds highly negative feelings about the other.
  2. One or both parents have boundaries issues.
  3. Communication between parents is ineffective, hostile, or disrespectful, or the parents are unable to stay child focused when they interact with each other.
  4. One or both parents is unable or unwilling to work together to meet the child’s day to day needs or make decisions together.
  5. There is a moderate or high level of conflict.
  6. Each parent has a vastly different parenting style from that of the other and they fight over which one is right.

 

How does parallel parenting work?

  1. Parents disengage from each other and do not interact during child exchanges or school events.  They may alternate attending school events or not sit together when in attendance at the same time and they will schedule separate parent-teacher conferences if the school will accommodate such a request (most schools will).
  2. Parents communicate only in written form (except for emergent or time sensitive matters) and do not communicate about routine, day to day issues.  Communication is kept to a minimum and is typically done via email or an online communication tool, such as Our Family Wizard.
  3. Each parent is responsible for the day to day care and parenting during their parenting time and basically mind their own business when the children are at the other parent’s home
  4. Routines and discipline decisions may vary from house to house
  5. Parents do not attend medical, dental or counseling appointments together, but divide up who has responsibility and when. 
  6. Parents are responsible for accessing information from school, doctors, dentists or other professionals in the child’s life without relying on the other parent to provide routine information.
  7. Parents do not share personal information and may use a neutral location for child exchanges or have a neutral person do the pick ups and drop offs.
  8. Parenting time schedules are rigidly adhered to and are very detailed as to times and exchange locations.  A third party may be in place to address parent disputes or situations that are unclear or were not covered when the schedule was created.

 

Parallel parenting can offer families some much needed breathing room that opens to door to co-parenting in the future, but if it doesn’t, it provides something better than the conflicted situations that cause tremendous amounts of stress to families and it gets children out of the middle of hostile situations that put their healthy development and well-being at risk.