A Parenting Coordinator (PC) is a neutral professional who assists parents to resolve parenting issues using a child-focused dispute resolution process in a fast, efficient and cost-effective way and without court involvement. The PC first uses the mediation process to help parents collaboratively resolve issues. If the parents are unable to resolve all issues, the PC may make decisions and/or recommendations.
Decisions may include:
- joint decision-making
- child care
- extra-curricular activities
- other parenting issues
The PC cannot make permanent changes to the parenting plan or each parent’s percentage of residential time.
The PC’s decisions and recommendations are based on (a) compliance with the parenting plan’s language and intent; (b) the children’s best interests; and
(c) what is fair and reasonable to both parents given all the circumstances.
The Whatcom County Court summarizes the Parenting Coordinator Program as follows:
The Parenting Coordinator Program is a voluntary child-focused dispute resolution process that is designed to assist parents to resolve their parenting disputes without court intervention. With the parents’ agreement, the Court will appoint a qualified professional from the Parenting Coordinator Registry to act as the Parenting Coordinator in their case for a specified period of time.
The Parenting Coordinator may make decisions resolving disputes between the parents regarding children that do not affect the Court’s exclusive jurisdiction to determine fundamental issues of residential time and placement. It provides parents an expeditious way to resolve “emergency” disputes, while saving courtroom time for other substantive matters.
The Parenting Coordinator will have the authority to negotiate, decide or recommend solutions for specific disputes, but cannot make substantive changes in an existing Parenting Plan. The ultimate goal is to help parents resolve disputed or difficult issues amicably and in a timely manner.
Sheri Russell has been a family mediator since 1994, is a former family law attorney, and completed the 20-hour Parenting Coordinator training. She is on the Whatcom County Court’s Parenting Coordinator Roster, and has been a Parenting Coordinator since 2013. Sheri’s approach is to help parents collaboratively make decisions, and if necessary, her decisions are based on a balance of the child’s best interests and what is fair and reasonable given the circumstances.
Bellingham Mediation & Consulting maintains the utmost confidentiality with regard to all its cases and clients.