Serving the needs of separated and divorcing families

The Evolution of Parenting Coordination

Problem:  Limitations Experienced by the Legal System

Although the legal system is dedicated to assisting families in transition, the Court faces several obstacles.  The system has been limited in their ability to effectively assist high-conflict separating families due to the following factors:

  • Inability to provide a therapeutic intervention effective for binuclear families
  • Limited by therapeutic resources due to confidentiality
  • Limited by information provided by biased sources or professionals without the knowledge of working with the parties in a joint effort
  • Inability to limit or monitor parental behaviors
  • Depleted resources
  • Relitigation rates that burden the court system

Solution:  Parenting Coordination

Power Chart:  Peggy Ward, Ph.D.  (1997)

AuthorityAccess            Clinical Skills
JudgeYes NoNo
Guardian ad Litem*SomeYesNo
Parenting CoordinationSomeYesYes

*Assuming the Guardian is an Attorney

As noted by Dr. Ward’s Power Chart, practitioners identified three essential elements required to effectively assist high-conflict separating families.  The Parenting Coordinator is the only professional role that has the ability to meet these three qualifications.


In the early 1990s, professionals in California borrowed statutes previously developed for Special Masters and Mediators.  California was the first to develop a court order to appoint a special master.  Although the use of special masters was a step in the right direction, most special masters are attorneys who have the ability to write orders.  Their primary function is to “settle” disputes when parents are unable to agree.  Most special masters do not have an ongoing relationship with the family.  Consequently, special masters do not teach parents the skills they need to develop a collaborative relationship.

In 1992, a group of custody evaluators and family law professionals in Colorado gathered to further refine the role. They coined the term “parenting coordinator. ” In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, three books addressing the role and responsibilities of a parenting coordinator were published.  As the momentum continued, jurisdictions across the nation began to appoint parenting coordinators.  Several states developed statutes or borrowed from other statues to govern the role.

The AFCC created a task force to explore the differences in how each state and providence utilized parenting coordination.  Task forces have been created in different states to explore the usefulness of parenting coordination and the potential for state legislation.  Currently, parenting coordination is recognized as a valuable resource to assist separating families in the midst of conflict.

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