Parenting coordination is a growing field that helps high-conflict separated or divorced parents make parenting decisions and comply with court orders. As a parenting coordinator (PC) you work closely with parents to reduce conflict and focus on the best interests of the children.
If you’re interested in combining your mental health expertise with family law to help disputing parents, becoming a PC may be a great career path for you. Here is a step-by-step guide to launching your parenting coordination career.
Step 1 – Get the Right Education and Licensure
To become a parenting coordinator, you must have a minimum of a master’s degree in a mental health field such as psychology, social work, counseling, or marriage and family therapy. You must hold a current license in your state as a psychologist, clinical social worker, professional counselor, or marriage and family therapist.
Having a doctoral degree and advanced clinical experience with high-conflict families will make you a stronger candidate when applying for PC appointments.
Step 2 – Get Training in Parenting Coordination
While graduate programs touch on family systems, specific training in parenting coordination is required. Look for a reputable program that covers parenting coordination skills, ethics, domestic violence assessment, family dynamics and conflict, and the parenting coordination process.
Some recommended parenting coordination training providers include:
- Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC)
- High Conflict Institute
- National Parenting Coordination Association
A training program ranging from 2-3 days up to 40 hours will significantly boost your qualifications.
Step 3 – Gain Relevant Work Experience
Along with your clinical license and PC training, hands-on experience with high-conflict families will prepare you for parenting coordination. This experience can be gained through relevant work activities like:
- Mediation with divorcing parents
- Child custody evaluations
- Co-parent counseling
- Therapeutic supervised visitation
- Work with court-mandated or incarcerated parents
- Family law arbitration, conciliation, or forensic work
Seek opportunities to build expertise working with high-conflict personalities and making recommendations about children’s best interests.
Step 4 – Learn Your State’s Parenting Coordination Requirements
Each state has different qualifications and procedures for appointing parenting coordinators. Research your state’s requirements regarding:
- Training hours
- Professional licenses and experience
- Continuing education
- Certification vs credentialing
- Appointment procedures
- Scope of PC Authority
- Codes of conduct and ethics
- Complaint procedures
- Record keeping and reporting
Reaching out to experienced parenting coordinators in your area is a great way to learn state-specific requirements.
Step 5 – Pursue Parenting Coordinator Certification or Credentialing
While not required in every state, obtaining official parenting coordinator certification or credentialing will give your qualifications a significant boost.
The two prominent organizations that offer PC certification include:
- Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC): The 35-hour training program meets training standards in most states.
- National Parenting Coordination Association (NPCA): Provides credentialing focused on a case management model.
Check the certification requirements for your state when deciding which credential is best aligned with local appointment procedures.
Step 6 – Market Yourself as a Parenting Coordinator
Once properly trained and certified, begin marketing your services to local family lawyers and courts. Recommended strategies include:
- Send introductory letters with your qualifications and services. Follow up with calls.
- Write guest articles in family law blogs and newsletters.
- Ask satisfied mediation clients for referrals or testimonials.
- Network at local family law association meetings.
- Offer free parenting coordination consultations or informational meetings.
- Create a parenting coordination website with clear credentials and “hire me” call to action.
- Advertise in local legal publications.
When possible, seek court appointments on low or pro bono cases to gain experience and initial reviews.
Step 7 – Continue Developing Your Skills and Knowledge
The field of parenting coordination continues to grow and evolve. Stay current by:
- Completing regular continuing education in domestic violence assessment, family dynamics, conflict resolution techniques, and more.
- Attending annual AFCC or NPCA parenting coordination conferences.
- Getting consultation from experienced parenting coordinators.
- Maintaining membership in relevant professional organizations.
- Reading the latest parenting coordination research.
Make ongoing learning and skill development a priority throughout your parenting coordination career.
Launching a Rewarding Career
Becoming a parenting coordinator requires specialized education, training, and experience combined with an interest in helping challenging families. But for licensed mental health professionals it can be a deeply meaningful and engaging career direction.
If you have a heart for children and a passion for reducing family conflict, follow the seven steps outlined here. Before you know it, you’ll be off and running as a successful parenting coordinator and making a positive difference for parents and kids.