Sometimes parents do not agree on parenting time -- the where, the when and the how much. Parents might be facing a situation whereby a parenting time schedule that once worked no longer is working because the needs and parents have changed. Life changes: work schedules change; extracurricular activities of children change; children grow older or there may be a more major change such as a parent changing residence creating a need for a parenting time schedule change. There are situations when work schedules between parents are complicated and parents need help in deciding on viable alternatives that meet the needs of children and parents. Sometimes there are concerns and issues that need to be addressed and communication between parents becomes strained and joint problem solving comes to a grinding halt. Sometimes there are more serious needs, such as the need for transitional parenting time to reinstate relationship of a disconnected parent under a court order to re-establish parenting time.
Sometimes parents just need a little help and sometimes they need a lot of help. Every situation is different, because people and families are unique and different.
One thing that may not always be recognized by parents: If one parent has a concern it affects everyone -- even if the other parent disagrees with the concern. The reason why I say that is conflict not addressed always escalates. Defenses rise and communication becomes more difficult with time. Conflict rarely, if ever, de-escalates. It is not unusual for one parent to see a problem exists but is not affecting the other parent. The bottom line is, if one parent is having a problem with something it will end up that both parents have a problem if they do not address it effectively.
It can be helpful for parents to agree in advance that if one of them expresses a concern that you will respect one another enough to listen without judgment and put yourself in the shoes of one another in an attempt to understand the concern. If you do not communicate well and you have difficulty with resolving conflicts mediation with a trained third party neutral skilled in parenting coordination will be the most effective means of reaching long term solutions. The majority of issues regarding parenting time coordination can be resolving in one extended session. Even custody issues can oftentimes be resolved by developing a parenting plan that provides consistent and regular contact between parents and children adjusted around the priorities of the best interests of children and the needs of the parents.
When I work with parents regarding custody and parenting time, I encourage them to allow me to help them with a formal parenting plan. A formal parenting plan addresses more issues than scheduling. It addresses custody and parenting time, holidays, summer parenting, vacations, extended weekends, exchanges, transportation, extracurricular activities of children, education decisions, religious upbringing and safety concerns. A formal parenting plan is the best safety measure parents can establish in preventing future litigation.
No one is in a better position to make decisions regarding their children than the parents. No one knows their children better than parents. No one knows the relationship dynamics between the parents better than the parents and they know what will work and what will not. What parents need is practical and neutral advice on scheduling that respects the right of both parents to have relationship with their children, applicable resources that improve flexibility in scheduling, builds respectful communication and continuity between the parents for the sake of the children, and intervention that places decision making powers that affect their children squarely on the shoulders of the parents. Conflict between parents happens; children caught in the middle of parental conflict destroys children.
Mediation empowers parents; it does not override parental decision making powers. Hiring attorneys and bringing it to court will. Most parenting coordination issues and concerns are the result of the working dynamics between parents. Courts address legal issues; parenting coordinators and mediators work with people to address issues. Mediators to do not resolve issues. They help parties to a conflict resolve issues.
How much will it cost?
- Capped Fee: $200 per parent for one, 3-hour session.
- Hourly Fee: $175 per hour divided equally between the parents (If one parent is underemployed or unemployed, services can be divided between the parents on an income based percentage upon request.)
- Legal Drafting Services for Court Forms for Parenting Time and Custody Changes, including Child Support Revision: $50 per hour, $200 advance payment
Early Neutral Evaluation Services:
Lois Warner is listed in Virginia, Minnesota for SENE. Look for her name on the list of SENE neutrals.