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Parenting Plan Coordination (Special Mastering)
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255 W. Central, Suite 201, Brea, CA 92821

PARENTING PLAN COORDINATION

(SPECIAL MASTERING)

Reduces costs
Expedites decisions for the family

DESCRIPTION

Parenting Plan Coordination (same as Special Mastering) is a child-focused, alternative (and "appropriate") dispute resolution (AADR) process in which the Parenting Plan Coordinator (PPC) holds quasi-judicial authority, and related immunity. It is generally used to help parents in high conflict to reduce conflict and make decisions in carrying out their parenting plan that has already been court ordered, and the PPC monitors compliance with the details of the parenting plan. According to California law, the court cannot order the parties to obtain PPC services. Whether parents have used an adversarial or collaborative process, PPC appointment is only accomplished via stipulation of the parties and then filed with the court.

The PPC reports to the court and, therefore, Parenting Plan Coordination is a non-confidential process. In addition, there is no confidentiality between parents.

WHY PARENTS CHOOSE PARENTING PLAN COORDINATION

Parents choose this service (1) because it is considerably less costly than returning to court for every dispute over the parenting plan, issues with the other parent's behavior, or for every needed change in the parenting plan as children grow and their developmental needs change, therefore necessitating changes in the parenting plan; and (2) because decisions are made expeditiously with minimal delay, often within one day (via phone/voice mail and e-mail, text message or fax), or at least the following appointment, as compared to the more prolonged process of taking the issue to be decided in court, although the court always retains jurisdiction over these decisions and the entire parenting plan. (Currently, if the appointment is made in Orange County the PPC/Special Master usually does not have an arbitrator function, rather only facilitates decision-making between parents and provides recommendations in specified areas of the parenting plan, stipulatied by the parties, to the parties and the court.) The parents also have the opportunity to provide the PPC with a more in-depth understanding of the issues to be decided.

THE PROCESS & ROLE of the PPC

Parents, in consultation with their representatives, choose the areas of decision-making in which they believe they will need the PPC to arbitrate (or to provide recommentdations only, as is generally the current role if the appointment is made in Orange County). Please review the stipulation and order I have adopted, which was developed in 2007 in Los Angeles County by an interdisciplinary panel of judicial officers, attorneys and mental health professionals. This order classifies levels of PPC decision-making into three types of categories. The authors have made recommendations as to which level the issues to be decided should belong (i.e. the PPC scope of authority for each issue); however, it is up to the parents to decide the level of authority of the PPC they choose to apply to the issues to be decided (and as stated above, currently in Orange County the role of the PPC is generally to facilitate resolution between parents, and with the court to provide recommendations only. There is usually no arbitration function). Please see: STIPULATION & ORDER APPOINTING PARENTING PLAN COORDINATOR. This order may also be found on the website for the Los Angeles Bar Association, Family Section ( www.lacba.org ).

Again, if your case is in Orange County you may choose not to use the above stipulation/order, as it reflects the role of arbitrator, which is used in Los Angeles County, but not generally in Orange County (where the PPC is appointed to provide recommendations only, but not decisions that are signed into court orders as in Los Angeles County); however, it is a good reference for identifying the areas in which you will want the PPC to make recommendations, which should be listed in your court order appointing the PPC.

When disputes arise between parents, either or both parents may contact the PPC. The PPC will hear both sides and attempt to facilitate a resolution, and if this process does not result in agreement, the PPC then functions as an arbitrator (except for in Orange County, as explained above, where in general only recommendations are made) and makes a decision, by which both parents will be bound. In addition to decision-making, the PPC teaches parents the skills of effective decision-making and communication, parallel parenting and co-parenting, as well as providing education in child development and age appropriate expectations. The PPC does not address issues that are not initiated by the parents, other than to briefly discuss the issue and to provide informal recommendations; however, the PPC can make referrals as he/she determines necessary. The PPC may also function within the role of a case-manager depending upon the parent's needs.

CONFIDENTIALITY

Parenting Plan Coordination is a non-confidential process, as stated above. Additionally, the PPC who is also a mental health professional is a mandated reporter and, therefore, according to the law I must report to the authorities if there is a reasonable basis for me to suspect child, dependent or elder abuse or neglect, in which case a report would be filed with the appropriate social service agency: child or elder protective services, and/or the police. If I have reasonable basis to believe that a client is gravely disabled and unable to provide for his/her own basic needs, then I may breach confidentiality to engage those who could provide assistance and safety. If a client reports directly to me a physical threat to the person or property of an identifiable person I am required by law to notify the police and the intended victim, and may contact others who may be helpful in securing the intended victim's safety. I may also breach confidentiality by contacting and engaging the efforts of those individuals who might help to secure the safety of an individual who is a threat to him/herself.

AGREEING NOT TO TAKE ISSUES TO COURT

It is important to consider that when parties stipulate to using the Parenting Plan Coordination process they are agreeing to utilize this process and not to take their issues to court. The parent who chooses to do this risks being held responsible by the court for the legal costs of the other parent, as well as the possibility that the judge will agree with the decision of the PPC. If a party chooses to subpoena the PPC to testify, the subpoenaing party agrees to pay the PPC expert testimony fees, which are billed at double the hourly rate for a minimum of four hours (no on-call).

DURATION OF APPOINTMENT

The appointment of the PPC is generally one to two years; however, if the parties so choose, a PPC can be retained for any length of time until the youngest child turns eighteen years of age.

Please download the following for more details:

Parenting Plan Coordinator/Special Master Training Completed (Please see related CEU training on the "Therapist Profile" page.):

  1. 3-hour: Collaboratively Negotiating Agreements with an Interest Based Approach (2011), Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Association (Presenter: Forrest "Woody" Mosten, Esq.)

    3-hour: The Complexities of Diversity and Dispute Resolution in Family Law Matters (2010), Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Association

  2. AFCC Regional Training Conference (2009), Interventions for Family Conflict: Stacking the Odds in Favor of Children, 3-hour Workshop, Research to Practice: Florida’s Parenting Coordination Study (Presenters: Ruth Angaran, M.Ed., MSW; Debra K. Carter, Ph.D.; and Linda Fieldstone, M.Ed.)
  3. 14.4-hour: Parent Coordination [Special Mastering]: Intensive Interventions for High Conflict Shared Parenting (2008), AFCC (Presenter: Matthew Sullivan, Ph.D.)
  4. 13.5-hour: Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Interdisciplinary Training (2008), LACFLA
  5. 24-hour: Parenting Coordination/Domestic Violence Training (including 8 hours DV, 3 hours Ethics), (2008), Cooperative Parenting Institute (Presenter: Ann Marie Termini, Ed.S., M.S., LPC)

  6. AFCC/NCJFCJ (Association of Family and Conciliation Courts/National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges) Regional Training Conference (2007), Applications for High Conflict Families, Domestic Violence and Alienation: 3-hour Workshop 5: Parenting Coordination Nuts & Bolts (Presenters: Debra Carter, Ph.D., and Christine A. Coates, M.Ed., J.D.); 3-hour Workshop 20: Connecting Parenting Coordination and the Courts (Presenters: Linda Fieldstone, M.Ed., and Honorable Hugh Starnes)

  7. 12-hour: Parenting Coordination: Helping High Conflict Parents Resolve Disputes(2007) , AFCC (Presenter: Joan Kelly, Ph.D.)

  8. 40-hour: Mosten Mediation Training (2007), Forrest “Woody” Mosten, Esq. (Course is approved by the Association for Conflict Resolution toward Advanced Practitioner membership status)
  9. 7-hour: Divorce Mediation & Parental Alienation (2003), Psycho-Legal Assoc., Inc. (Presenter: Gerald L. Klein, J.D.) (Contributes to the 40-hour custody evaluation hours for Rule 1257.4)

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