Although you and your spouse are ending your marriage, if you have children together then you will always have a relationship--you will always be parents. It is important to remember that the children must always be the focus of the divorce, and the goal should be to minimize the impact of the divorce on your children. However, divorcing parents often disagree about parenting issues like discipline, religion, education or household responsibilities. Disagreement about parenting issues can further escalate the tension in your relationship with your spouse and can be detrimental to your children. In situations in Georgia where a majority of the conflicts during the divorce are related to the children and differences in parenting style and philosophy, a parenting coordinator can be an invaluable resource.
A parenting coordinator is a psychologist or mental health professional who can help you and your spouse discuss parenting issues, determine what an appropriate parenting schedule will be for your time with the children, and help you come to a consensus about how you will be effective co-parents in the future. He or she can help resolve parenting issues that arise during your divorce, and can help you and your partner work together to reduce your conflicts related to the children. The parenting coordinator typically does not attempt to resolve marital issues, but assists with disagreements related to parenting only.
A parenting coordinator is not a guardian ad litem, who is a representative of the Court appointed to determine the best interests of the children, but one who works directly with the parents to attempt to resolve parenting issues outside of Court. With the Court or the parties' consent, he or she may make decisions for the parties on parenting or child-rearing issues, but parenting coordinators do not give legal advice. The value of the parenting coordinator is in resolving issues outside the courtroom, and can help you set establish a working relationship that allows you and your former spouse to be effective co-parents not only until the end of the divorce, but throughout your children's lives.
If you have questions about a parenting coordinator, or if you are a parent with concerns about how to work with your spouse during the pendency of your divorce, contact Meriwether and Tharp.
By Elizabeth Doak, Associate, Meriwether & Tharp, LLC