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Dr. Deborah Koricke, one of the more well-known psychologists in Northeast Ohio, focuses her practice largely on families in conflict.  Dr. Koricke and I met over some coffee a couple of weeks ago to discuss Parent Coordinators and other tools for these families. Click here  for her biography.

Dr. Koricke is a principal of the Center for Effective Living, which currently has offices in Beachwood, Middleburg Heights, and Rocky River.  In addition to serving as a Parent Coordinator, The Center for Effective Living provides many services for children, adolescents, adults, and families both intact and separated.  These services are listed at the end of this post.

Parent Coordinators
Most important to our purposes today, Center for Effective Living provides Parent Coordinator services.  A Parent Coordinator is appointed by the Court or agreed to by the parents in an Agreed Judgment Entry signed by the Judge.  The Court's Order must set forth the instructions to the Parent Coordinator regarding his/her authority, what issues are to be addressed, payment structure, and minimum number of visits (thereby avoiding a party from derailing the process by simple non-attendance).  It may also be useful if the Order provides for a party that abuses the process to be required to pay for the Parent Coordinator's time

The goal of using a Parent Coordinator is to curtail repeated returns to the Court.  This is hopefully less expensive to the parents than additional post-decree litigation.  In addition, using a Parent Coordinator gives a parent one more method to learn to deal with the former partner despite the existence of the problems in the relationship.

Parents utilize the Parent Coordinator after the divorce when an issue arises that they cannot resolve themselves.  Instead of filing a post-decree motion with the Court, they engage the Parent Coordinator who meets with the parties and attempts to facilitate an agreement.  If the parents do not reach an agreement, the Parent Coordinator may reach a decision that is supposed to be binding on the parents, but it is appealable to the Court.

Parent Coordinators charge a retainer that must be paid in advance by the parties as decreed in the Court's Order.  The amount of the retainer may be set in the Order or may be set by the Parent Coordinator based upon the complexity of the case.  The Parent Coordinator’s time is billed on an hourly rate against the retainer.

How to Use Parent Coordinator Services Effectively

Dr. Koricke identified the following things that parents can do to make the process of working with a Parent Coordinator more efficient and therefore more cost-effective:

  1. Bring ALL relevant documentation and supporting documents:  For example, if you are alleging problems with school tardiness or attendance, obtain and bring a copy of the report card that shows the attendance or better yet the daily records maintained by the school to demonstrate the dates of the attendance and therefore the parent responsible on those days.
  2. Do your best to remain open-minded to the process and to the positions of the other parent:  If a parent is close-minded or myopic in approach, dismissing every suggestion or belief of the other parent out of hand, the process will not be productive.
  3. Try to see the forest through the trees and view your own case from a distance:  Addressing the parenting issues for your children is much larger than either parent's own ego.  While putting this aside is difficult, it is important to see the well-being of your children on the whole.
  4. Bring the court order that appoints the Parent Coordinator and the court order that is currently in effect regarding custody and visitation of your children.
  5. Bring any date logs or calendars that you have kept regarding custody and visitation issues
While there are probably other tools available, Dr. Koricke and the courts in the Northeast Ohio region (Cuyahoga, Lorain, Medina, Lake, and Geauga) commonly use Our Family Wizard as a tool to centralize communication into one place.

What NOT to do

Dr. Koricke also identified things for parents NOT to do:

  1. Do NOT communicate with the other parent through the children.
  2. Do NOT pass notes to the other parent through the children.
  3. Do NOT have children discuss adult issues with the other parent.
  4. Do NOT engage extended family members to advocate with your former partner for you.
  5. Do NOT tattle tale on your former partner to extended family members.
  6. Do NOT involve your former partner's co-workers or boss in your domestic issues.
  7. Do NOT use social media such as Facebook or MySpace to bash your former partner.
  8. Do NOT post anything on social media that you would not want held against you in Court or in a custody evaluation.
Other services provided by the Center for Effective Living include the following:

  1. Comprehensive counseling and psychiatric services.
  2. Forensic evaluations.
  3. Reunification after parental alienation or after other significant lapse of time.  Reunification can be with a parent or extended family.
  4. Parent coaching.
  5. Mediation on non-financial issues
  6. Home studies for adoptions and custody evaluations
  7. Psychological testing for diagnosing ADHD and related conditions, learning disabilities, worker's compensation, post-stroke evaluation, determination of child's status as a "gifted" child.
Counseling and psychiatric services can be court ordered or accessed voluntarily by an individual or family in need of assistance.

Forensic evaluations are a tool commonly used by the Domestic and Juvenile Courts to aid in the determination of what custodial arrangement is in the best interest of the minor child or children.  Forensic evaluations are also used for guardianship and some criminal matters.  The Center for Effective Living will travel domestically or internationally as needed to complete the evaluation.

Parent Coaching services may be utilized by separating families or intact families.  The participation of both parties aids in effectively addressing the situation.  Parent Coaching services are routinely used to address parenting issues which may arise out of the breakdown of the family or also from the challenges of raising special needs children.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Koricke or another provider with the Center for Effective Living or for more information on their services, click 
here. 

 

 
 
Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.
Benjamin Franklin quote


Cases involving custody disputes can get very ugly, very quickly.  Courts across Ohio and lawyers practicing in the field are continually trying to identify new ways to assist families to avoid the nastiness and to develop tools to relieve the pressure on the parents, children, and the Court when the problems seem insurmountable.  These tools are usually double edged as they can be used as evidence in the case if they are unsuccessful in assisting the families in resolving it themselves.  Traditionally, these tools have included guardians ad litem, court investigators, and forensic psychological evaluations.

In the last few years, Ohio courts have begun experimenting with a new tool.  Parenting Coordinators.  Only a few counties have modified their local rules to specifically allow for parenting coordinators, but they are ordered without local rule in several counties.  A parenting coordinator is a lawyer who practices routinely in the field of family law or a licensed metal health provider such as a psychologist or licensed independent social worker.

Parenting coordinators are utilized and ordered in cases that have been identified to be high conflict families.  The parenting coordinator is paid a retainer up front.  When the parents reach an issue that they cannot resolve, they schedule a meeting with the coordinator.  The parenting coordinator attempts to facilitate an agreement between the parents.  If this fails, the parenting coordinator makes a decision that is final and binding upon the parents.  One or both of the parents may appeal the parenting coordinator's decision to the Court, which reviews the matter on its own and without regard to the decision reached by the parenting coordinator.

The purpose of having this decision maker outside of the Court is an attempt to alleviate the burden of contentious and expensive post decree litigation on the parties, allow for faster resolution of post decree issues, allow for intervention in issues that are important but may not rise to the level where a parent would file a motion with the Court, and relieve the Court of some of the caseload of high conflict post decree litigation.

Next week I will be interviewing Dr. Deborah Koricke, who has unique information to provide on this topic.  Dr. Koricke works with families in conflict in several capacities.  She is a psychologist who provides theraputic treatment to individuals and families, performs forensic psychological evaluations for custody litigation, and serves as a parenting coordinator.

 

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