South Carolina Family Intervention: Co-Parenting Counseling or Parenting Coordination

family intervention

As every divorced or separated parent knows, co-parenting between separate households is difficult. Parents often have different routines and rules, not to mention different opinions on larger issues, such as whether the child needs counseling or which school the child should attend. Sometimes parents are able to resolve conflict on their own or through mediation. Other times, parents become increasingly entrenched in their positions, and conflict becomes intractable. Family intervention can help former partners in conflict with co-parenting and prevent harm to the children. But what interventions are available, and how do they work?

Family Intervention Options: Co-Parenting Counseling and Parenting Coordination

Co-parenting counseling and parenting coordination sound similar, and they share the goal of helping co-parents navigate conflict and preventing harm to children. But they operate differently and are each a different form of family intervention, and may be called for at different times. Before discussing which intervention is appropriate in various circumstances, it is important to understand what co-parenting counseling and parenting coordination are.

Co-Parenting Counseling

Co-parenting counseling involves work with a therapist who is trained in family systems. The therapist educates parents and helps them gain insight into their own behaviors and relationships, especially how their behaviors and interactions impact their children. Often, knowing how their behavior negatively affects their children motivates parents to learn skills to minimize harm to the children.

Parents may decide to seek co-parenting counseling on their own, or be ordered into counseling by the court. The therapist works with both parents, either separately or together, and often, both. He or she may help the parents to understand child development and develop dispute resolution skills. While the co-parenting counselor may help the parents resolve conflict, he or she has no authority to offer a binding decision in a disagreement between the parents.

Parenting Coordination

What is a parenting coordinator? He or she is a professional with experience in high-conflict family law cases. The parenting coordinator occupies a hybrid mental-health and legal role and may be an attorney or a mental health professional. A parenting coordinator’s job may include education, assessment, conflict management, and case management. Like a co-parenting counselor, a parenting coordinator may help parents to resolve disputes. However, one key difference is that a parenting coordinator may have authority to issue a decision resolving a dispute. This can be helpful to parents who cannot reach resolution on their own and who need a decision more quickly than a judge would be able to hear a dispute.

A parenting coordinator is often called for when conflict between co-parents has become intractable. This type of family intervention is almost always initiated by a court order.

Do You Need a Parenting Coordinator or a Co-Parenting Counselor for Family Intervention?

Which professional is appropriate depends on the circumstances. For mild to moderate conflict that is somewhat manageable, a co-parenting counselor’s services may be most useful. The counselor tries to keep the parents communicating and engaged with each other, but focused on information and decisions relating to the child. As parents understand more about how their own relationships and actions affect the child, counseling may help them work together more productively.

Sometimes, however, interaction between parents only serves to escalate conflict and makes co-parenting more difficult. In those situations, it may be best for a parenting coordinator to intervene so that parents can co-parent with increased structure and a minimum of communication. So-called parallel parenting gives parents reasonable guidelines and expectations put in place by the parenting coordinator.

The structure put in place by a parenting coordinator reduces the sense of chaos and gives parents the opportunity to get comfortable with the co-parenting routine. In a sense, it’s almost like a splint that keeps an injured limb in place until it heals. As the parents develop their confidence and co-parenting skills, they may need less and less support from the parenting coordinator.

In some cases, a co-parenting counselor and a parenting coordinator may both be helpful, though not necessarily at the same time. For instance, a co-parenting counselor may work on educating parents and try to help them deal with underlying sources of conflict. If the parents don’t make progress with counseling or conflict escalates, the court may have a parenting coordinator step in. The parenting coordinator can help with decision-making and dispute resolution, reduce court involvement, create structure, and help parents disengage from each other until they are able to interact in a way that allows counseling to be productive.

All family law cases involve some conflict, but not all require family therapy interventions for communication or a third-party parenting coordinator. If you are worried that the conflict between you and your co-parent could lead to lasting harm for your children, though, seeking help is the right thing to do. Litigating every parenting dispute only escalates conflict and fosters distrust, rather than putting your child’s interests first.

If you have questions about South Carolina family intervention options, please contact Brinkley Law Firm to schedule a consultation.