512 THE ADVOCATE
VOL. 76 PART 4 JULY 2018
• he or she maintains professional liability insurance that provides
coverage for his or her practice as a parenting coordinator.7
We started this work in about 2008 believing not only that we could solve
parenting issues and improve the quality of communication between parents,
but also that we could probably “cure” their personality disorders as
well. As it turns out, we were a bit too ambitious. Enthusiasm is no substitute
for knowing your limitations when it comes to achievable outcomes.
Ten per cent of the population is said to have a personality disorder (histrionic,
narcissistic, antisocial, paranoid, borderline) and there is a sizeable
portion of our caseload in which a parent seems to have many of the indicia
of such personality disorders.
So in the early years of our work as parenting coordinators we found ourselves
attempting to fundamentally change parents’ approach to resolving
conflict when that was not necessarily realistic given their situations and
their capacities, both emotional and financial.
On the financial piece, because we believed we could solve every problem,
we incurred what in retrospect were high fees in some cases, not
because we did not do the work, but because it was a quixotic journey at
best and the outcomes did not match the costs incurred by the parents. We
encouraged (and sometimes required) parents to retain child specialists and
parenting coaches to address intractable parenting challenges. I genuinely
believe if we had thought a plumber would help, we would have considered
retaining one. It dawned on us early on that some parents enjoy the conflict,
encourage unhealthy engagement and do not want it to end! They
would, however, prefer not to pay.
So, in the early days, significant fees were sometimes incurred with modest
results, and those cases really got more exposure than they deserved.
Many legal professionals came to judge the program by those early missteps,
believing the program to be too expensive. This has been a challenging
misconception to overcome. One of our parenting coordination mentors
in this work, Dr. Matthew Sullivan, one of America’s leading psychologists,
did some critical continuing education with us in 2011 and 2012 and helped
us refocus on what is achievable and what reasonable expectations look like
when working with high-conflict families. Setting boundaries on our own
availability was helpful, as was becoming very clear with parents about
what we can reasonably achieve in the parenting coordinator process.
A further financial factor is the state of the parenting plan when parents
retain us. If there is a parenting plan that is 20 or 30 pages long and covers
everything from pickup times and locations to how professional development
days at school are divided, there may be few gaps in the parenting