As originally published in BarTalk on October 1st, 2017
Written by Anahita Tajadod
PARENT COORDINATORS AND CHILD SPECIALISTS
Having to co-parent children with your former partner may be one of the toughest challenges you have to deal with after separation. After all, it is likely due in part to poor communication and major and/or frequent disagreements that you decided to separate. Co-parenting difficulties arise during the separation process and may persist even after the financial and custody issues have resolved. It is impractical and too costly to hire lawyers to commence a court application every time that there is a disagreement about decisions relating to the children.
The Family Law Act of British Columbia (“FLA”) provides for the appointment of a number of professionals who can help separated parents with issues relating to the children, namely, parent coordinators and counsellors who may be divorce coaches or child specialists.
Section 15 of the FLA provides that the court has the jurisdiction to appoint a parenting coordinator and section 6 of Regulation 347/2012 sets out the issues that fall under the authority of a parenting coordinator. Once appointed under an Order or an agreement, a parent coordinator is there not only to help parents reach mutually agreeable solutions or build consensus, but is also authorized, failing consensus, to make determinations regarding the following issues:
- a child’s daily routine, including a child’s schedule in relation to parenting time or contact with parents,
- the education of a child, including in relation to special needs, if any,
- the participation of a child in extracurricular activities and special events,
- the temporary care of a child by a person other than
- the child’s guardian, or
- a person who has contact with the child under an agreement or order,
- the provision of routine medical, dental or other health care to a child,
- the discipline of a child,
- the transportation and exchange of a child for the purposes of exercising parenting time or contact with the child,
- parenting time or contact with a child during vacations and special occasions, and
- other matters that are agreed on by the parties and the parenting coordinator.
Section 224 of the FLA provides that a court may require one or more parties or a child to attend counselling, specified services or programs. It also authorizes the court to apportion the fees related to same among the parties:
224 (1) A court may make an order to do one or both of the following:
a. require the parties to participate in family dispute resolution;
b. require one or more parties or, without the consent of the child’s guardian, a child, to attend counselling, specified services or programs.
(2) If the court makes an order under subsection 1, the court may allocate among the parties, or require one party alone to pay, the fees relating to the family dispute resolution, counselling, services or programs.
The parties may want or be required to work with a child specialist who is a registered professional trained in child development, psychology and assisting families going through separation. The role of a child specialist is to help parents come up with parenting plans with a focus on the needs and best interests of the child/ren. The parties may also be assisted by divorce coaches who are licensed professionals trained in the collaborative divorce/separation process. They address conflict, adjustment, and emotional difficulties through strengthening communication and problem solving skills between parties.
It is important that lawyers and parents consider the professionals that may be appointed or voluntarily engaged to facilitate a co-parenting relationship for the benefit of the children. The litigation and the separation process may end, but parents are forever.