Parenting consulting is is an effective intervention that can minimize parental conflict, reduce stress on children, and stop continued litigation. Essentially, it is a combination of mediation and arbitration around family-related disputes. A parenting consultant is a specially trained professional, agreed to by the parents and then court ordered, to help them resolve parenting disputes, manage their parenting plan, and improve communication. The parenting consulting process is neutral, non-confidential, and focused on the best interest of the children.
A parenting consultant has three roles:
- Coaching: the PC will work with each parent on how to approach their former partner and identify methods for resolving disputes.
- Mediating: these discussions include traditional issues such as parenting time and holiday schedules, but can also extend to much more specific issues and disputes, such as holiday and vacation times, school choice, appearances of children, extracurricular activities, etc. The parties and the consultant talk through these issues, in a manner similar to a typical mediation, and try to reach an agreement. It is not rare for even the most conflicted parties to reach agreements with the aid of a Parenting Consultant.
- Decision Making: if an agreement cannot be reached, the PC is tasked with coming to a decision regarding the specified conflict between parties.
Intake. Our Parenting Consultants prefer to have a joint meeting with the parties to begin the process and then individual meetings with each party, all within a few days. We have found this intake protocol to be important to our understanding of the parties, how they co-parent, and how they deal with their conflict. We rarely deviate from that protocol. We understand that there are cases in which the parties cannot or should not be together. However, if their conflict is that extreme, dangerous or debilitating, the Parenting Consultant process may not be effective. It is possible that a Special Master, Consensual Special Magistrate or even an Arbitrator may be a better fit.
Scheduling. We try to make Parenting Consultant matters priority for scheduling as we understand families in need require timely response. If the circumstances warrant, some of our PCs are willing to schedule outside of normal business hours. The Parenting Consultant process is not amenable to dealing with emergencies, but it can accommodate urgent matters.
Cost. Parenting Consulting is not an inexpensive process, though it is typically cheaper than litigation. Some families just need a forum to address their issues and settle almost every dispute which the PC will then memorialize. Some families need a decision on every issue. Some families need PC involvement once or twice a year and some six or more times a year. Our Parenting Consultants charge between $375 and $540 per hour. A minimum deposit of $5,000 which includes a one-time $200 admin fee is also required. Typically, the parties divide PC fees in some way.
There is a similar process called Parenting Time Expediter. The judge can appoint a Parenting Time Expediter over the objection of the parties, however, a Parenting Time Expediter has fairly narrow authority over parenting disputes.