So, you have a PC assigned to your case and you’ve paid (probably a bunch of) money to get started with that person. Between you and the other parent, you have brought somewhere from two to ten issues with the PC. How can you save some money and get the most out of your parenting coordinator, for the least money, to get those issues resolved?
1. Pick your battles. Just as you do with your children, decide if an issue is really something to fight about. Have a serious conversation with yourself about whether you want to spend money and time arguing over an hour of parenting time here or there. There’s nothing wrong with first raising an issue with the PC, discussing it a bit, and then saying “Never mind. Let’s remove that one from the list.”
2. Determine if your position is logical and reasonable. If your position is that the other parent should do 100% of the driving for the children most of the time, is that logical? Is it reasonable to think that a PC and later a judge will have one parent do 100% of the driving? Is it logical that the judge will give one parent every Christmas Day with the children and deprive the other parent of ever having a Christmas Day?
3. Make sure the fight isn’t costing you more than the issue. Although parenting coordinators don’t usually handle financial things, some issues creep into money matters. If the parents are arguing back and forth about whether Johnny’s baseball glove is at Mom’s or Dad’s house, and who failed to get the glove to the practice field, having the PC involved in those discussions is going to very rapidly cost more than the glove (or tennis shoes, or school book). Asking the PC to get involved in issues of clothing left at the other parent’s house will eat up money even faster. This is just a variation of “pick your battles.” Determine whether it’s cheaper to buy a second school book, or pair of shoes, rather than spend the money on a PC.
4. Use trusted friends for discussion about the things above. Don’t pick a friend or family member who will agree with you on everything. Choose someone whose opinion you really trust and who you would consult with about an important decision like changing neighborhoods or jobs. Choose someone who has tried to stay neutral between you and the other parent. Bounce your ideas off of that person (is this a battle I should continue? is my position logical and reasonable?) and ask for real, truthful feedback.
5. Communicate with the other parent about the issue at hand, in brief, informative emails, or with brief questions about the issue. BRIEF is the key component here. If the other parent asks for something that just infuriates you, go ahead and write your scathing, outraged, 3-page response — but don’t send it to the PC or the other parent. Send it to yourself, or that trusted friend, or your mother, but keep it in your small circle. (Sending it just to the PC is an option, but it’s an option that probably costs you money.) After writing the full outraged response, sit down (a few hours or a day later), and edit it down to: “I don’t agree to give up my parenting time on Fathers’ Day this year.” and stop. Saying more isn’t helpful, and will cost you money. You can add “If the PC is considering this request, please give the opportunity to respond further.”
6. If you can’t stop yourself from writing and sending the long, drawn-out emails that re-hash what happened last Easter and go on about what an inconsiderate bum the other parent is, then review carefully the bills you receive from the PC. Make a point of adding up how much those emails cost you. If you realize that sending those emails cost you as much as a two-day admission to Disneyland, or enough to have your car fixed, or enough to pay for a nice children’s birthday party, you might be able to change your behavior in the future.
7. Read your Parenting Plan and all court orders that might cover the issue. An amazing number of parenting coordination clients simply haven’t read their court orders. Getting the PC involved means that you are paying someone to read your documents to you. If the issue is where the children will be for Thanksgiving this year, you need to get out and read every court document that might mention Thanksgiving. These documents could be your Parenting Plan (sometimes called a Joint Custody Agreement or Joint Legal Decision-Making Agreement), and it could be in orders issued directly by the Court (in Arizona, called Minute Entries). Read everything, thoroughly, before involving the PC.
8. Create a calendar. If the issues between you and the other parent involve a certain period of time, such as summer vacation and event scheduling, or the weeks from mid-November through the re-start of school in January, create a calendar showing who the children are with each of those days. That’s what your PC is going to have to do, eventually, and if you start with one, it simplifies the process and may even end it. Pull up Google Calendar, or your own calendaring program, and fill in your understanding of the schedule for the weeks in question, including all exchange days and times, and list all holidays or special days. Then propose that specific calendar to the other parent and ask “Do you agree with this, and if you don’t, tell me what parts you don’t agree with.”
9. If the calendar and exchange of emails does not resolve the issue without the PC’s help, then organize everything for the PC. Telling the PC that “My position is stated in all the earlier emails” is an expensive statement, because now the PC has to go through several (dozen?) emails to find your position. And that’s done at your cost. To reduce that cost, briefly re-state your position in one organized email. If the issue involves a long period of time, use a calendar to re-state your position. Refer the PC to the specific dates of the emails and court orders and the specific sections of a parenting plan that should be reviewed by the PC in making this decision. The more specific you are, with page and paragraph numbers, the less time your PC will spend looking for this information.