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What’s the Goal of Parenting Coordination?

That is a question I was asked recently when speaking with some colleagues.

When I turned the question around, the colleagues spoke in terms of client identified goals and in motherhood statements such as the parents being able to get along although acknowledging that as often wishful thinking.

With that I provided my goal, typically held private: I want the kids to survive their adolescence. That’s right, my goal is very basic, stay alive. Don’t suicide. Live to be an adult and figure the rest out then.

This goal is consistent with the experience of The Honorable Judge Jaime R. Román, out of California.

In the January 2015 edition of Family Law News, published by the State Bar of California, The Honorable Judge Jaime R. Román lamented the fact that he counted 17 suicides of children embroiled in family law matters over the course of his 3 1/2 year tenure as a family court judge.[i] That is a huge number, quite disproportionate to what would be seen in the general population.

The truth of the matter is the higher the parental conflict, the greater the likelihood of mental and behavioural health problems in their children. Parents only seek Parenting Coordination because their conflict is deemed high. By extension, their children are already at an increased risk of death come adolescence.

Apart from those children who do not suicide, yet whose parents do not ratchet down their conflict or do not contain their emotions or do not refrain from making one or both lives miserable, we see children poorly to barely coping who do not finish school and/or engaged in drug or alcohol use and/or are inappropriately sexually active and/or are getting themselves in trouble with the law, quite often for their violence perpetrated towards their own parents by that point.

My view is that unless the child is alive, as a very basic goal, concentrating on the other albeit reasonable goals of school attendance, sobriety and contained behavior, is actually a distraction. Indeed as one or other parent may complain about those issues, I may be reminding them that from the outset of service, their son or daughter was either self-mutilating and/or suicidal and that as a result of service, those risks have been substantially reduced.

High conflict between separated parents is a cause of mental cancer to the child. No matter how good the service provider, if the parents cannot limit or control themselves, our work to help facilitate a child’s reasonable mental health and development is stymied.

As Parenting Coordinator’s we would love to see children succeed to become happy, well adjusted, responsible adults. That is why we do the work. With an eye to survival, we may make decisions on a child’s behalf that is unpopular with a parent. Lord knows we do not do this for the vitriol and badmouthing often targeted at us when a parent takes issue with our guidance or arbitration award. But before a child can succeed with higher life goals, that child needs to survive the parental conflict.

Justice Román’s suicide count is astounding. My goal is to take a bite out of it.

Amazingly, some parents will never get this. However, those that do are appreciative and improve their child’s chance at a better outcome.


[i] The Honorable Judge Jaime R. Román, We Can Make a Difference, Family Law News· ISSUE 1, 2015 · VOL. 37 No. 1, pg. 30


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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847  


Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.


Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.



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27 Sina Street, Georgina, ON, Canada L4P 3E9 Tel: (905) 628-4847 Email: gary@yoursocialworker.com