What is the difference between a Parenting Consultant and a Parent Coordinator?

While I was writing my book I learned that Minnesota is the only state in the United States that calls the neutrals they have for parent decision making Parenting Consultants.  All other states call them Parent Coordinators or Parenting Coordinators.  Minnesota is also the only state to use Parenting Time Expediters.  The odd difference for the title has made it a little harder for others out there to find my book.  I considered changing the title to the Parent Coordinator Nightmare, but since I was writing about my knowledge of the process in Minnesota, I thought I’d better stick with the term Parenting Consultant.

You may also wonder if there is a difference in different states and even in different countries.  The short answer is that I do not know.  I did not research each state to find out if states have these authorities governed by statute or not, but what I can tell you is that I have heard from people in several states who have the same complaint about their court authority, no matter their title.  That is why the book covers more than just Minnesota.  As a matter of fact, the book covers more than just the topic of PCs; it also has helpful tips for those who deal with a difficult co-parent.  Much of the information I included is helpful for moving past divorce and even a dysfunctional childhood.  I work with people as a coach to help empower them and many of the people I meet who are stuck in a high conflict divorce situation come from a dysfunctional family in one way or another and they chose a similar dysfunctional marriage.  My hope in writing the book was to help people heal from the pain that has kept them in court and also to learn new tools to keep in their relationship toolbox because if they can heal and choose healthy futures, then they may be able to prevent watching their child continue those same unhealthy patterns.  I do not believe anyone wants to see their child make the same mistakes in choosing their significant others.

As for the problems people have working with a PC, you need to have some of these skills in order to prevent the process from becoming a nightmare for you and your children.  I think that for the high conflict family, there must be a better way to do this decision making piece.  I also think that you should have a way to get out of it if it is not improving the situation between the parents and if you cannot afford to pay the fees involved.  I cannot think of too many contracts one enters into that one cannot get out of at some point, but the PCs can be appointed indefinitely, or until your child turns 18.  That does not seem right.

The role of PC is to have someone there who can make important decisions for the children when the two parents cannot come into an agreement on their own.  Some PCs push the two parents together in hopes of creating a good co-parenting relationship.  Some spend time coaching you on how to be a better parent.  Most parents take offense to that because they were considered a fine parent prior to their experience in divorce court.  No one complained about their behavior and no one reported them to child protection and now the only one unhappy with them is the other parent.  It seems silly for someone to have to work so hard trying to make a good parent out of someone who had no complaints against them before, especially when the complaints come from a party who is quite hostile and always on the attack with their co-parent.

PCs, regardless of their title can and do get into every aspect of your child’s life and they often make decisions that they are not truly qualified to make.  I hope that by educating parents before they ever sign up for one, they can find a way to choose an alternative or at the very least, find a way to keep the amount of time and money spent on PC services to a minimum so that the children can be the ones who benefit from the time and money that parent has.

As for my part in educating people about the PC process, in answer to the question, what is the difference between a Parenting Consultant and a Parenting Coordinator, the answer is: no difference at all. 

Image courtesy of  Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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