Trained Professional Parent Coordination
“Mary Anne Gunter knows how to parent thru divorce...personally...I have had the privilege of watching her, as her Pastor, live thru it to tell about it. Coparenting in a divorce situation is sticky at best and impossible in most. But Mary Anne has an uncanny ability to connect with what parents, in this stage of life, are trying to survive. Her empathy, encouragement and guidance will give a Mom and Dad hope...plus...give the child stuck in the
middle a healthy future. The need for this is real and this type of solution is right."
Mark Evans, Senior Pastor, The Church at Rock Creek; Little Rock, Arkansas
Divorce and coparenting are hard. Even the most well-meaning, loving parents can make important mistakes where their children are concerned, during and after a divorce, or when coparenting. If you're like most of us, you are learning this as you go, sometimes making the mistakes first and learning the lessons later.
Sincera Wellness can help.
Here are some facts that can educate you about Parent Coordination; what it is, and what it isn't. Sincera Wellness, LLC stands ready to help coparents in a nonjudgmental, fair and professional manner - -
- - Our PC training is endorsed by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, and is based on the 2019 Guidelines for Parenting Coordination, and the Recommendations for Comprehensive Training of Parenting Coordinators, all of which are endorsed by some of the nation's most respected leaders in this field, such as Harvard University and William James College's Dr. Robin M. Deutsch, Ph.D., ABPP, Dr. Mindy F. Mitnick, Ed.M. and others.
-- "Divorce or parental separation" is included as one of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in a groundbreaking study of over 17,000 participants by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One of the things they found is that ACEs have a "systemic" impact - - an entire society is compromised when ACEs are not resolved. ACEs are one of the top priorities in the entire mental health profession, the study of which has literally changed the very face of the mental health field, causing changes and awareness rippling out to the legal, healthcare, educational fields, etc.
-- Children can really get hurt, sometimes permanently, when parents won't adhere to court orders or work together for the sake of their children. That's where a PC can help. Sincera Wellness, LLC is committed to supporting and educating the community, school, church, business, parents and families in understanding what is entailed in divorce, blended families, and coparenting.
-- As a trained Certified Facilitator, we offer the excellent "One Heart, Two Homes" curriculum, created by MFT systems theory-trained therapists Jay and Tammy Daughtry, founders of Coparenting International and the Center for Modern Family Dynamics. We also offer the excellent "Cooperative Parenting and Divorce" curriculum, created by systems theory-trained therapists Susan Boyan, LMFT and Ann Marie Termini, LPC.
-- Both the "One Heart, Two Homes" and "Cooperative Parenting and Divorce" programs are widely endorsed by nationally-recognized and respected leaders across the counseling, pastoral, and legal professions, are systemic, and supported by clinical research. Either program may be offered in churches and other groups, and have been widely used in coparenting counseling, individual or group coparenting or divorce class, including being utilized as family court-ordered coparenting interventions. Either program includes a certificate of completion that you may present to your family court judge. Contact us if you would like these proven program(s) introduced to your group, court, or church, or for a speaking engagement about divorce, blended families, or coparenting topics.
-- The first thing to remember is that you split up. Your children didn't.
-- A Parent Coordinator (PC) is not serving also as an attorney, mediator, therapist, or judge for you at the same time. A PC does not act in a role as your therapist while serving as your PC. Clients can choose either therapy, or parenting coordination services, with Sincera Wellness.
-- Parent Coordination, and therapy, are not the same thing. They are two very different and distinct services.
-- As Parent Coordination is not clinical therapy, it is not covered by insurance. A PC, serving in a non-clinical, non-therapy role as Parent Coordinator, is not bound by HIPAA.
-- Sincera Wellness supports a collaborative and systemic approach, where appropriate. Cooperation between parents, educators, healthcare systems, attorneys, counseling, PCs, ad litems (guardian / attorney) -- anything it takes to help children in the middle not suffer, helps maintain objectivity, and helps coparents, is our goal.
- - Here is an excellent overview of the role of the Parent Coordinator by the knowledgeable professionals at HG.org Legal Resources, and is one of the most informative and objective in explaining what the role of a PC is, and isn't.
-- Here is a helpful article, published by Divorce Magazine - https://www.divorcemag.com/articles/what-is-parent-coordination.
-- Coparenting counseling is not for every set of coparents. In fact, there are a minimum of 8 indicators (we carefully screen for these first) where coparenting counseling is absolutely not indicated, and where Parent Coordination may serve as a more appropriate fit.
-- Sincera Wellness may serve as a PC when voluntarily requested and mutually agreed-upon by both parents, whether they've been to court or not, or as a mandated PC appointed by a judge to work with both parents.
-- Parent Coordinators typically do not create or change custody orders, but can advise on issues such as visitation, daily schedules, and a litany of other common areas that children and coparents face often daily. We can create a mutually-agreeable Parenting Plan that works, and that flows over time.
-- We don't want to see your child acting out your coparenting conflicts with behavioral aggression in school, stomachaches and crying, feeling utterly anxious and powerless to make mommy and daddy get along. Sadly, children often blame themselves and experience guilt for their parents' conflict. Coparenting conflict is never the fault, or responsibility, of the child's to fix. Please do not make your child your pseudo-therapist, badmouth your child's other parent to them, make them the conduit of information to the other parent. These are some of the most common errors in coparenting.
-- Tragically, here is an example of coparenting gone horribly wrong. The high conflict escalated over a long period of time. The ominous red flag warning signs were there all along, but it seems no one was paying attention, or perhaps knew what to look for, and a child is dead today because of it. [Warning: Graphic Content] - - https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/05/07/i-shouldve-just-kept-her-gone-jail-custody-battle-ends-year-old-chained-burning-car/?utm_term=.e5f798775a0b.
-- We know certain things to look for. In too many cases across the country in instances of domestic and IPV violence, children became human bartering chips caught in the middle. In retrospect, the cases were well-documented and chronic, over a long time. An escalating, clear trail was evident. At Sincera Wellness, we petitioned our state senator to consider legislation that would put high-risk, potentially lethal coparenting situations at a higher level of awareness and, with a proactive approach, could prevent tragedies before they happen.
-- At Sincera, we are trained in high conflict coparenting issues, and in helping establish parallel parenting boundaries should one or both parents refuse to cooperate or work for the good of the children. We are also trained in spotting parental alienation, a severe, toxic level of coparenting dysfunction, typically requiring legal intervention, and can mean serious trauma-focused counseling for the child (who is being abused in that situation). We never recommend coparenting counseling where parental alienation is present.
-- Approximately 80% of high conflict, chronically-struggling coparenting cases may involve a serious personality disorder and we are trained in recognizing when this may be present. If at anytime it appears that a child is being exposed to unsafe psychological, emotional, physical, etc., conditions, or used as collateral or leverage by one parent against another, as a mandated reporter it will be reported to the proper authorities.
-- The PC is neutral and does not take sides with one parent over another. The primary goal of the PC is to effect the best interests of the children and in promoting safety. Our work focuses on helping you, the coparent, work with the other coparent as much as possible in order to help your children. That's it. We can't do anything about when your former spouse didn't send you Valentine's roses in 2008, but we can help you work out a clear, solid Parenting Plan on who picks up the kids from dance class next Thursday. We work forward, not backward.
-- A Parent Coordinator's role is not to try to get you to reconcile or remarry. This isn't about any state of your "couples" relationship - this is now a business relationship about raising children left in the fallout of a parental breakup. We start right where you are at, today, and work forward from there. This is not therapy. It is linear and directive. We stick to what the child needs, facts, problem-solving, concrete goals, safety. We stay focused on the here-and-now, and goals for the future (and we love applauding success!)
-- The clinical research is showing that children suffer the most, well into adulthood, in a divorce / coparenting situation when the parents are involved in chronic disputes during and long after the parents' breakup. Remember, children experiencing their parents' divorce or parental separation is counted as an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) - so that means they are, already, at higher risk of difficulties.
-- Sincera Wellness recommends "Our Family Wizard", an excellent online site for coparents (www.ourfamilywizard.com). It is especially helpful for coparents who find it difficult to communicate verbally with each other. It is a practical and helpful platform to use in your ongoing necessary coparenting interactions with each other, whether or not you have a Parent Coordinator. Here is a link to a good article by Our Family Wizard about why using a PC can be helpful - https://www.ourfamilywizard.com/blog/five-reasons-work-parenting-coordinator.
-- Parent Coordination fees of $200.00 per hour are typically divided between the parents, and at times the division of fees is a percentage of their respective income, as one parent may earn far more or less than the other. Sometimes the court judge will decide that. We require an initial separate $250.00 1.5-2-hour assessment and screening session before any Parent Coordination services will begin. If we agree to Parent Coordination services, a retainer is then required. Outside of Arkansas, PC fees are typically in the $250.00+/hour range and above. We believe in incentivizing healthy efforts, so towards that, we can often slightly reduce the fee for coparents who require less intense involvement of the PC, are demonstrating consistent improvement, not requiring a Court Order to force cooperation, for example.
-- Parent Coordination can sometimes involve a high-intensity situation that involves the PC not only interacting with the parents, but with others, such as court judges, court clerks, attorneys, therapists, social workers, police, evaluators, guardians ad litem, physicians, nurses, teachers, etc. In short, having a chronic case that results in deeper involvement of the PC, interaction with courts and attorneys, dishonored Court Orders and signed Parenting Plans, for example, will typically cost more.
-- Often the cost of a PC can still be less costly financially, as well as emotionally, than years of ongoing high conflict, court battles, attorneys fees, filing fees, counseling fees, threats, court orders, custody battles.
-- Sincera's position is to recommend an intentional, future-focused approach. It is usually better for you, and for your children, if coparents who find it challenging to work together will voluntarily seek out the unbiased, professional help of a PC. It's almost always better (and usually less expensive and embarrassing) than a judge ordering coparents to do it.
-- When we say "future-focused", this means that we help you keep focused on the issue at hand. The past is where nothing can be changed - and yet where most of the conflict resides. Real change takes place in the present and in the future, and that's where we concentrate. This is good news, because this is where you still have choices.
-- We get it. This is tough. This calls upon your deepest resources at times. Which is why we highly recommend a good support system around you, and good self-care. It is critically important to take good emotional, physical, spiritual care of you, so that you have the resources needed to take care of your children.
-- The most psychologically healthy situation for your children is one where no one had to be forced into compliance, where children are never expected to choose between parents or feel guilty for their parents' breakup, and where children can flow easily and peacefully between two homes, and where children are fully encouraged and supported in loving both of their parents. Your relationship may have broken up, but your children's relationship with their other parent didn't and shouldn't.
-- Our firm position at Sincera, born through experience, is that change and healing are possible. We've seen it. We know that "family" doesn't end; it only changes. Ever hear the phrase, "divorce is never over"? Well, neither is coparenting. You will still be coparenting when you have grandchildren. So let's make this a journey that you and your children thrive in, because it's absolutely possible.
Some quick pointers - -
1) Don't make your child your new best friend, confidant, therapist. They aren't equipped in any way for this crippling responsibility, and it will only make them anxious, stressed, and feel guilty, feeling responsible for fixing something they have no control over. Find healthy adults to talk to, and let your kids be kids.
2) Don't talk badly about your child's other parent to your child. That's their parent and they love them. When you speak badly about the other parent to your child, the child can start believing they are bad, to have had such a "bad" parent.
3) If you're dealing with a former partner who is being unreasonable, won't work in a healthy way with you in coparenting, then get a good family law attorney, document everything, keep as calm as possible, keep communication civil and limited only about the children. Please do not take the law into your own hands.
4) Take a good family / divorce attorney's advice over your former partner's. When your former partner yells and threatens they're never going to let you see the child again, for example, you don't have to accept that. It's what the law says, not what the former partner threatens in the heat of the moment, that matters.
5) Your children need consistency, and you can benefit from good self-care. Exercise, relaxation, laughter, time with healthy friends and family, time for solitude and reflection and rest. Build a life that you like and are proud of. You and your children, whether they live with you full-time, part-time, or during visitation, are still a family.
6) You have no control over your former partner's behavior or choices. But you do over your own.
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Let Sincera Wellness, LLC come alongside you and help you create a mutually-agreeable, realistic plan that works for both of you, is mutually respectful and focused on the future and the evolving needs of your children, and lets both of you, and your children, get on with life and living, not stuck in the past.