Many people are familiar with mediation, while not as many are familiar with parenting coordination. Frequently, people ask: what is the difference between the two? Both processes serve important, but different, purposes.

During the mediation process, the mediator is neutral. The primary objective of the mediator is to help the parties negotiate to reach an agreement on whatever issue they are stuck on. They might focus on better communication some, but this is unlikely to be the main focus.

The parenting coordinator is also neutral. The parenting coordinator focuses more on implementation of any orders that are in place, rather than coming up with plans. Parenting coordinators can work with the parties to improve the underlying struggling communication process.

A few examples are helpful to illustrate the difference.

At mediation, the parties might hammer out a specific regular timesharing and holiday timesharing schedule, complete with specifics about exchange times and dates, and reduce it to writing. It is a good plan with plenty of detail.

But then, one parent seems to show up late for exchanges a few times, making the other parent wait around, or a parent needs to go out of town and the parties are struggling to agree on how to make up the time, and neither parent trusts the other enough to solve their problems out on their own. They just end up fighting and rehashing old arguments. They make no progress on the actual difficulties.

The parenting coordinator can step in to help the parents implement some concrete steps to decide how they will handle the situation when a parent is late, can help the parents come up with a concrete plan for how to make up time, and, perhaps most importantly, can help the parties develop better communication skills. The parents learn how to stop engaging in the same tired arguments. Sometimes, it will become clear that the parties need to go back and work with the mediator to come up with a better plan and then continue to implement it in the best way. The goal is that eventually the parents learn how to solve problems like these on their own, without needing outside assistance.