The signs indicating that it's time to hire an attorney are typically readily apparent: You just learned that your spouse is cheating... again. Your former spouse is withholding child support payments... again. You want a divorce, but your spouse refuses to participate amicably. The list is endless, and the clues are many guiding you to the office door of your local divorce lawyer. But, how will you know when it's time to engage a parenting coordinator? Will you ever know? Will your attorneys or the judge tell you it's time? As I discussed in recent previous post, "10 Things Co-Parents Need to Know About Parenting Coordination," Parenting Coordinators are trail-blazing an alternative path for parents to resolve their co-parenting issues outside of the courtroom. Their tireless efforts and willingness to engage with high-conflict relationships are readily embraced by members of the court system, who are otherwise exhausted by the endless volatile battles that rage on and on, ranging from what foods to permit the children to eat to what movies they are permitted to watch. These disputes don't require legal decision-makers; they require a professional to help the parents make good decisions for their kids, and even sometimes an umpire to make the final decisive call.
Allyson Tomchin, LCSW, who is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator and President of Directive Energy, characterized it best when she said, "You need a parenting coordinator when you are spending more time, money and energy on litigation, than you are spending simply living your life." Tomchin has the street credentials to support her statement. Her clients' stories are the ones that we have nightmares about or laugh at like in the movie War of the Roses... until we're in the same situation fighting over the same stuff. For example:
• When mom and dad spend more money fighting about who is going to pay for school uniforms rather then on the actual uniforms themselves... it's time to call a parenting coordinator; or
• When parents debate over a shellfish allergy, when a doctor's report is sitting right in front of them... it's time to call a parenting coordinator; or
• When parents bicker about which "A" school is better for "my child,"... it's time to call a parenting coordinator.
In the end, these conflicts ultimately hurt the children.
The challenge in knowing when it's time to take a break from the madness and call a parenting coordinator is that most of us have a difficult time recognizing our own negative behaviors. We rationalize our behaviors in our own particular circumstances in order to justify our actions. So, how will you recognize when it's time? How will your attorneys or judges know when it's time?
Top 10 Signs That It's Time to Call a Parenting Coordinator:
1. Your monthly legal bill exceeds your rent or mortgage payment;
2. You spend more time in your attorney's office than with your friends;
3. Your vacations are spent reviewing depositions, drafting motions, hiring investigators, etc. etc.;
4. Your children are exhibiting classic signs and symptoms of children of high-conflict divorce, such as failing grades, sexual promiscuity, and drug use;
5. You spend more time in the courthouse than on the golf course;
6. The judge assigned to your case knows you by name and recognizes your face in the supermarket;
7. You seem to be paying for your attorney's kids' education instead of your own;
8. Your attorney doesn't seem to want to take your phone calls anymore, and only reluctantly responds to your emails;
9. You seem to be having an ongoing, friendly relationship with your local process-server; and
10. You've hired and fired multiple attorneys, and just can't seem to find one who "gets" you.
Wouldn't you rather put your divorce behind you and never ever ever be forced to have a volatile engagement with your former spouse again? Wouldn't it be nice to be able to co-parent without the venomous hostility that consumes your life, and worse, hurts your children? If you see yourself in the above list, imagine what life might look like after working with a parenting coordinator. Tomchin's measure of the true success of a parenting coordinator is in what she refers to as the "Not." Imagine yourself Not going to court; Not calling your attorney; Not litigating; Not calling the police; Not missing holidays and special occasions; Not fighting with the ex spouse/ex partner; and Not being constantly frustrated and angry regarding co-parenting. You can achieve this result.