These Standards for Parenting Coordination in Ontario for FDRIO (“Standards”) are based on the Standards created in 2005 by the interdisciplinary AFCC Task Force on Parenting Coordination and modified and adapted by the BC Parenting Coordinators Roster Society in 2011, to the extent appropriate.
The mandate of the FDRIO Parenting Coordination Section is to:
- create and administer a Parenting Coordination Certification designation that reflects the best practices for competent and ethical service in the public interest.
- promote excellence among practitioners, including establishing criteria for ongoing training and updating standards from time to time as appropriate
- provide guidance and recommendations to the FDRIO Professional Complaints Committee in those cases where FDRIO certified Parenting Coordinators are alleged to have failed to comply with the FDRIO Standards of Practice for Parenting Coordination.
STANDARDS FOR PARENTING COORDINATION
OVERVIEW AND TERMS USED
Parenting coordination is a hybrid legal/mental health process of consensual dispute resolution. It combines assessment, education, case management, conflict management and decision making functions. Parenting Coordination is differentiated from mediation/arbitration by the scope of the Parenting Coordinator’s authority with respect to the quantum of time, designation of decision making authority, and mobility issues. In particular, the scope of a Parenting Coordinator’s authority is defined by s. 59.7 of the Family Law Act.
The objective of the parenting coordination process is to assist parents in high conflict circumstances to protect and sustain safe, healthy and meaningful parent-child relationships by: educating parents about children’s needs and the effect of parental conflict on them, implementing parenting plans, monitoring compliance with the details of the plan, and resolving conflicts regarding the children and the parenting plan in a timely manner. The delegation of decision-making authority is a serious issue and only qualified professionals should be appointed to the role.
Parenting Coordination is a private, contractual, voluntary dispute resolution process. Although a Parenting Coordinator can be recommended by the Court for those high conflict parents who have demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to make parenting decisions on their own, comply with parenting agreements and orders, reduce child-related conflicts, or protect their children from the impact of that conflict, it is questionable whether judges in Ontario- currently have the authority in Ontario to make an order for a Parenting Coordinator, even on consent.
A Parenting Coordinator may, however, be appointed by agreement of the parties to provide the various functions identified above. If the parties wish an “open” form of Parenting Coordination, their agreement may authorize the Parenting Coordinator to provide a written or oral report to the court.
The parenting coordination process is child-focused and practiced only by experienced mental health or legal professionals who have specialized training and experience in conflict management, high conflict families, mediation and adjudication.
A Parenting Coordinator must routinely screen prospective and ongoing cases for domestic violence and power imbalances and shall accept, decline, design and terminate such cases on the basis of specialized training and expertise.
These Standards provide detailed guidance for Parenting Coordinators concerning minimum qualifications, ethical obligations and conduct and practice and procedure. These Standards refer to different levels of guidance as follows:
- the term “may” in a Standard is the lowest form of guidance and indicates a practice that the Parenting Coordinator should consider adopting, but from which the Parenting Coordinator may deviate in the exercise of good professional judgment;
- the term “should” indicates that the practice described in the Standard is highly recommended and should only be departed from in exceptional or compelling circumstances; and
- the term “must” in a Standard denotes the highest level of direction, indicating that the described practice is mandatory.
There are eleven best practice Standards, including statements of underlying principles, to assist Parenting Coordinators in identifying how best to conduct themselves and their practices in the discharge of their appointed duties in compliance with the governing legislation and the Parenting Coordination Agreement.
In these Standards the following terms will have the following meaning:
“Assessor” means a person appointed under s. 112 of the Courts of Justice Act or Section 30 of the Children’s Law Reform Act to assess: (a) the needs of a child(ren) in relation to a family law dispute; and (b) the ability and willingness of a party to a family law dispute to satisfy the needs of a child.
“Parenting Coordinator” means a person who has successfully met the Certified Specialist in Parenting Coordination designation requirements with the Parenting Coordination Section of FDRIO.
“Parenting Coordination Agreement” means a parenting coordination agreement that complies with best practices in the drafting of Parenting Coordination agreements;
“Parenting plan” means an agreement, Order or written decision concerning parenting arrangements and contact with a child(ren).
“Parties” means the persons named in a Parenting Coordinator Agreement.
STANDARD I – QUALIFICATIONS
1.02 A Parenting Coordinator must be designated as a Certified Specialist in Parenting Coordination from the Parenting Coordination Certification Section of FDRIO.
STANDARD II – JURISDICTION
2.01 A Parenting Coordinator may only serve under the terms of a Parenting Coordination agreement which provides the authority to work with the parents outside of the adversarial process, obtain information, make recommendations and make determinations as to the matters specified in the agreement.
2.02 A written Parenting Coordination agreement must clearly and specifically define the Parenting Coordinator’s scope of authority and responsibilities. That agreement must comply with the requirements of the Arbitration Act, 1991, and the Regulations under that Act. In particular, the parties must have at a minimum the right to appeal an Award made by a Parenting Coordinator on a question of law, with leave from the court as provided in Section 45 (1) of the Arbitration Act, 1991.
2.03 As well as jurisdiction, the Parenting Coordination written agreement must address all essential elements of the contract between the parties and the Parenting Coordinator including fees, retainers, services and billing practices.
2.04 The Parenting Coordination agreement must specify a term of appointment for the Parenting Coordinator, including starting and ending dates, renewal terms, and termination rights.
2.05 A Parenting Coordinator must not provide services until the Parenting Coordinator has conducted confidential, without prejudice intake meetings with the parties for the purpose of screening for power imbalances including domestic violence, and assessed whether the case is appropriate for the process, and received a signed Parenting Coordination agreement.
STANDARD III – INFORMED CONSENT
3.01 A Parenting Coordinator must at the outset of the process
(a) review with the parties the nature of the Parenting Coordinator’s role; and
(b) be satisfied that the parties understand
(I) the nature of the process, including their alternatives to using the Parenting Coordination process;
(ii) the extent of the authority assigned to the Parenting Coordinator;
(iii) the limited nature of the confidentiality of the process, particularly if the parties are choosing an open form of Parenting Coordination;
(iv) the third parties with whom the Parenting Coordinator will be authorized to consult or obtain information from; and,
(v) their rights in seeking a review by the court.
STANDARD IV – IMPARTIALITY AND CONFLICT OF INTEREST
4.01 A Parenting Coordinator must maintain impartiality in the process of parenting coordination. In this Standard, “impartiality”
- means freedom from favouritism or bias in word, action, or appearance, and includes a commitment to assist all parties, as opposed to any one individual; and
- does not mean that a Parenting Coordinator must be neutral regarding particular conduct or the outcome of a particular determination.
4.02 A Parenting Coordinator must withdraw if the Parenting Coordinator determines that they cannot act in an impartial manner.
STANDARD V – CONFIDENTIALITY & TRANSPARENCY
5.01 Parenting coordination is not a confidential process for communications among,
(a) the parties, their children and the Parenting Coordinator;
(b) the Parenting Coordinator and other relevant parties to the parenting coordination process, and,
(c ) in an Open Parenting Coordination process, the parties, the Parenting Coordinator and the court or an arbitrator.
5.02 Subject to, (a) the legal limitations on confidentiality; (b) permitted professional purposes as defined in the Parenting Coordination agreement; and (c) express provisions of the Parenting Coordination agreement permitting the Parenting Coordinator to provide a report to the court or arbitration hearing, or be called as a witness in a proceeding, a Parenting Coordinator must maintain confidentiality and information obtained as part of the Parenting Coordination process must not be shared outside of the parenting coordination process for any purpose.
5.03 Before entering into a Parenting Coordination agreement, the Parenting Coordinator must inform the parties of the limitations on confidentiality as provided in this Standard and, the Parenting Coordination Agreement in particular, that:
(a) any concerns about possible child abuse or neglect must be reported to child protective services in accordance with applicable child protection legislation; and
(b) the Parenting Coordinator must warn a party or third party and/or report to law enforcement or other authorities if the Parenting Coordinator has reasonable grounds to believe that a party or any person presents a serious risk of harm to self or others.
5.04 The Parenting Coordinator must use a methodology that is fair and transparent to both parties. Each party must be given a reasonable opportunity to understand the arguments made by the other party, to respond to them, and to be heard. Reasonable notice must be given as to what is expected from the participation of the parties and the consequences of non-participation. If one party refuses to cooperate after reasonable notice, the Parenting Coordinator may continue to resolve the dispute or withdraw from the process in accordance with the terms of the Parenting Coordination Agreement.
5.05 In the event that a Parenting Coordinator communicates with a third party in the course of the parenting coordination process (with the written consent of the parties) , the Parenting Coordinator should notify such third party that information obtained from them is not confidential and that it may be used in making decisions or writing reports or recommendations or testifying in court.
STANDARD VI – CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
6.01 A Parenting Coordinator must not serve or continue to serve in a matter in which there is a conflict of interest, including situations in which the impartiality of the Parenting Coordinator is compromised or reasonably appears to be compromised, except as specifically provided in this Standard.
6.02 During the term of a parenting coordination appointment, a Parenting Coordinator must not create a conflict of interest by providing any services to interested parties that are not directly related to the parenting coordination process.
6.03 A Parenting Coordinator must, before the parties enter into a Parenting Coordination agreement, disclose all known potential or potentially perceived conflicts of interest. After signing the Parenting Coordination agreement, the Parenting Coordinator shall disclose all known or potentially perceived conflicts of interest as soon as the Parenting Coordinator becomes aware of any interest or relationship giving rise to the potential or potentially perceived conflict.
6.04 After appropriate disclosure, the Parenting Coordinator may serve, or continue to serve, with the written agreement of all parties or, if the parties do not agree, in the Parenting Coordinator’s discretion. If a party challenges the Parenting Coordinator’s impartiality, the Parenting Coordinator has the jurisdiction to rule on the matter. However, if the conflict of interest clearly impairs a Parenting Coordinator’s impartiality, the Parenting Coordinator must withdraw regardless of the express agreement of the parties.
6.05 A Parenting Coordinator may make referrals to other professionals to work with the family, but must avoid actual or apparent conflicts of interest by referrals. No commissions, rebates, benefits or similar remuneration must be received or given by a Parenting Coordinator for referrals.
STANDARD VII – SEQUENTIAL OR MULTIPLE ROLES
7.01 A Parenting Coordinator must not serve in sequential or multiple roles in a case that creates a professional conflict, including :
- a party’s lawyer, a child’s lawyer or a child advocate must not be appointed as a Parenting Coordinator in the same case;
- a Parenting Coordinator must not be appointed as the lawyer for one party or a child either during or after the term of the Parenting Coordinator’s appointment with the family;
- a Parenting Coordinator must not be appointed as an assessor either during or after the term of the Parenting Coordinator’s appointment with the family; and
- a Parenting Coordinator must not become a therapist, assessor, consultant, coach, or other mental health care provider, separate and apart, to a party or a child, either during or after the term of the Parenting Coordinator’s appointment with the family.
7.02 A mediator or assessor should exercise caution about accepting an appointment as Parenting Coordinator in the same case, even with the written consent of the parties, because of the differences in the role and potential impact of the role change. However, such an appointment is permissible in appropriate circumstances. Parties must be advised to obtain independent legal advice before they may consent to such an appointment.
7.03 A Parenting Coordinator should, unless circumstances are urgent, always attempt to facilitate resolution of issues by consensual agreement of the parties. Dispute resolution efforts, which may use of therapeutic, mediation, educational and negotiation skills, do not disqualify a Parenting Coordinator from deciding an issue that remains unresolved after efforts of consensus building within the limit of authority provided in the applicable Parenting Coordination Agreement. In this regard, the parents waive s.35 of The Arbitration Act, S.O. 1991, c.17.
STANDARD VIII – ROLE & FUNCTION OF THE PARENTING COORDINATOR
8.01 The Parenting Coordinator will help the parents to resolve parenting issues in a way that helps to promote the best interests of the children and minimize parental conflict.
8.02 The Parenting Coordinator’s function includes both consensus-building and decision-making components. The parents understand that, unlike the process of mediation in other contexts, neither is able to unilaterally withdraw from the process of Parenting Coordination for the duration of the term of their Parenting Coordination agreement, although both parties may at any time agree jointly to withdraw.
8.03 To carry out this role, the Parenting Coordinator shall first meet individually and confidentially with each party for the purpose of screening for power imbalances and family violence, and in particular to identify, assess and determine how to manage risk in the process if it is otherwise suitable for the Parenting Coordination process. Once the Parenting Coordinator has accepted the case and entered into a Parenting Coordination agreement with the parties, the Parenting Coordinator, in their discretion, may:
- meet with the parents jointly or individually, or with their children when the Parenting Coordinator decides it is appropriate, with the timing, frequency and duration of meetings determined by the Parenting Coordinator;
- coach the parents about communication with each other and with their child(ren) with the goal of helping the parents acquire the skills and experience to resolve future parenting disputes without the involvement of the court or third parents;
- refer the parents to appropriate resources about parenting, communication techniques, dispute resolution or personal coaching, therapy or other related services;
- consult with third parties, including other Parenting Coordinators, counsellors, mental health professionals and independent legal counsel;
- attempt to resolve a dispute referred to the Parenting Coordinator by either or both parents by consensus; and,
- if agreement cannot be reached on that dispute, resolve the issue by way of making a determination that will be binding on the parents subject to their rights of appeal as set out in their Parenting Coordination Agreement. (“the Arbitration role”).
8.04 Where the Parenting Coordinator makes a determination, it is effective on the date that the Award is made unless a later date is specified in the Award.8.05 The Parenting Coordinator must apply all existing court orders, agreements, minutes of settlement or arbitration awards that pre-date or post-date the Parenting Coordinator’s appointment, but the Parenting Coordinator may amend such agreements or orders as per the jurisdiction of the Parenting Coordinator that is set out in the Parenting Coordination agreement.
STANDARD IX- SERVICES PERFORMED BY THE PARENTING COORDINATOR
9.01 The scope of the Parenting Coordinator’s role may include but is not limited to the following:
- assist with the implementation, interpretation, maintenance and monitoring of relevant Minutes of Settlement, Parenting Plan, Court Orders or arbitral awards;
- settle anticipated or actual conflicts in the child(ren)’s scheduling;
- settle any difficulties related to the children’s transitions between the parents or when both parents are in attendance at events or activities, including codes of conduct and transportation;
- clarify and resolve different interpretations or ambiguities in the Parenting Plan or terms related to custody/access order, Minutes of Settlement or Separation Agreement and develop any new provisions to address situations that were not anticipated when the Parenting Plan (or order, Minutes, arbitral award or Separation Agreement) was developed;
- monitor the child(ren)’s adjustment to the Parenting Plan;
- facilitate the child(ren)’s relationship with each parent;
- assist the parents to communicate more effectively where possible and, where not possible, assist to disengage the parents;
- assist the parents with the exchange of information about the child(ren) (i.e., health, welfare, education, religion, routines, day-to-day matters, etc.,) where necessary;
- make binding interim or final decisions relating to “major” decisions (i.e., education, health, religion)
- make interim or final binding decisions about temporary changes to the usual or holiday parenting time schedule, to accommodate special events and circumstances for the child(ren) or the parents;
- resolve conflicts concerning the child(ren)’s participation in recreation, enrichment or extra-curricular activities, lessons, and programs, where not addressed by the Court Order or existing Parenting Plan.
- settle disputes and develop provisions about the movement of the child(ren)’s clothing, equipment, toys and personal possessions between households;
- settle disputes and develop provisions about matters relating to the children’s travel with one parent (i.e., protocol relating to passport exchange, itinerary, notarized permission letter, telephone calls with the non-resident parent, etc.);
- resolve conflicts concerning day to day health care, day to day education matters, passports, risky activities, and events that are not otherwise allocated for in the Minutes/Parenting Plan; and
- resolve conflicts about any other parenting function, issue or decision, not otherwise noted, as delegated by the courts or by mutual parental consent.
- Such other similar matters.
9.02 The following specific issues are excluded from the scope of the Parenting Coordinator’s authority:
- permanent or substantial changes in quantum of parenting time as outlined in the parenting plan,
- a change in the geographic residence of the child(ren), beyond the parameters set out in the parenting plan;
- a change in final decision-making authority (ie., legal custody)
STANDARD X – COMMUNICATIONS
10.01 Parenting coordination is a dispute resolution process designed to reduce conflict and help settle disputes efficiently. A Parenting Coordinator must, at all times, communicate in a manner which preserves the integrity of the parenting coordination process and considers the safety of all participants.
10.02 In communicating with the participants in the Parenting Coordination process, a Parenting Coordinator,
- shall communicate in an objective, balanced manner that takes into consideration any possibility of a perception of bias,
- shall appropriately communicate agreements, directives and determinations to all parties, preferably at the same time when possible,
- may initiate or receive oral or written communications, with appropriate consent forms, with the parties, their lawyers, any legal representative of the children, and all other parties relevant to understanding the issues;
- may engage in individual, confidential communications with each of the parties and/or their lawyers;
- should take notes regarding communications with participants in the parenting coordination process; and,
- shall document in writing all agreements made by the parties or determinations made by the Parenting Coordinator within the Parenting Coordination process.
STANDARD XI – PRACTICE
11.01 A Parenting Coordinator must maintain reasonable practice records in a manner that is professional, comprehensive and inclusive of information and documents that relate to the parenting coordination process and that support the directives and determinations made by the Parenting Coordinator.
11.02 A Parenting Coordinator must not engage in marketing activities that contain false or misleading information. A Parenting Coordinator must ensure that all marketing material used in relation to his or her practice regarding,
- his or her qualifications;
- the services to be rendered; and,
- the parenting coordination process
- are accurate, verifiable and not misleading. A Parenting Coordinator must not make claims of achieving specific outcomes, or creating an unjustified expectation about the parenting coordination process.
11.03 A Parenting Coordinator must:
- respond promptly to any communication from FDRIO’s Complaints Committee, and,
- otherwise comply with FDRIO’s policies, practice and procedure requirements, including the FDRIO Standards of Practice for FDR Professionals.
STANDARD XII – BILLING
12.01 Prior to entering into a Parenting Coordination agreement with the parties, a Parenting Coordinator must explain to them the basis of all fees, disbursements, taxes, costs, retainers, deposits, payment methods and any penalties for postponement, cancellation and/or nonappearance, as well as any other financial terms applicable, all of which must be confirmed in writing in the Parenting Coordination agreement. The fees charged for parenting coordination services must be based on the actual time expended in the parenting coordination process.
12.02 The Parenting Coordinator should comply with any practice rules regarding fees. Activities for which a Parenting Coordinator may charge include, but are not limited to,
- interviewing parents, children and collateral sources of information;
- preparing for and conducting hearings;
- preparation of documentation, agreements, correspondence, decisions and reports;
- review of records and correspondence;
- telephone and electronic communication;
- relevant legal or other research
- travel, and,
12.03 A Parenting Coordinator must maintain detailed records necessary to support charges for services and expenses and should make an accounting of those charges to the parties.
12.04 A Parenting Coordinator may request a retainer and/or deposit prior to starting a case. The parties should be billed on a regular basis and notified when the retainer and/or deposit is to be replenished.
12.05 All fees and costs must be allocated as set out in the Parenting Coordination Agreement.
 When avoiding multiple relationships is not feasible (example in small communities), the prior relationship must be fully disclosed to the parties and counsel and they must provide informed consent.
 In accordance with the individual Parenting Coordination Agreement.