Divorced couples must set aside hostilities for the sake of children, say court-appointed parenting coordinators

Parenting coordinator enables better communicate and resolves disputes or disagreements between parents.
Parenting coordinator enables better communicate and resolves disputes or disagreements between parents.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - When divorced couples face intense conflict over parenting or in fulfilling court-ordered arrangements on matters such as parental access to a child, parenting coordinators (PCs) are appointed to help them under a scheme started in 2016 by the Family Justice Courts (FJC).

The FJC said a PC "is essentially an educator, a facilitator, a coach, and a mediator all rolled into one". By helping parents better communicate with each other and find ways to resolve disputes or disagreements, the PC enables them to better co-parent and cuts down on their court visits.

The FJC has a panel of more than 40 PCs - lawyers and social science professionals trained in parenting coordination.

"Over the years, there have been PCs appointed in appropriate cases to assist parents carry out the parenting orders made by the court," said an FJC spokesman.

"To date, the FJC has had 10 PC appointments. There is a pending application to appoint a PC which will be heard by the court in due course," she added.

While internationally, there is no formal certification process to become a PC, the FJC requires candidates to be at least 30 years old, trained in parenting coordination, and a qualified lawyer and/or psychologist, counsellor or social worker. A PC must also have significant practical professional experience with high-conflict co-parenting family cases.

The challenge for one PC, senior family lawyer Shone Aye Cheng, is in coordinating meetings with contending parties.

"Most parents would be resistant as they already are at loggerheads, and the PC is required because one of the parents already does not want the other parent to have access to the children," she said.

"Parents must have the mindset that the appointment of a PC would help them move forward after divorce."

PC Abigail Lee, a counsellor and play therapist, said "challenges in PC work include helping both parents to see what might be in the best interests of the child, while putting aside any animosity toward their ex-spouse."

Senior family lawyer and PC Gloria James-Civetta, writing on her law firm's website, said: "The success of the PC programme depends on the willingness of the parties to make it work with the PC journeying with them over an extended period of time. This will require a parent to acknowledge the importance of the other parent."