Following up on our recent blog regarding Parenting Coordination, we have listed below some of the more common questions that we receive about Parenting Coordination (P.C.) and provide answers to those questions.
A. Can the Court order me to attend Parenting Co-ordination (“P.C.”) if I don’t want to attend?
Q. It depends:
Yes. Practice Note 7 of the Alberta Rules of court confirms that the court can do this if the P.C. has mediation powers only.
No. If the P.C. has Arbitration Powers (the power to make a binding decision) in accordance with the Arbitration Act. A P.C. with Arbitration powers can only be appointed if the two of you agree to do so.
Q. We really like the waiter at our local restaurant. We believe he would be an awesome P.C. Can we give him the power to make binding decisions about our children moving forward?
A. Anyone can be appointed a P.C. in Alberta. No training is required and P.C.’s are not regulated unless they are Lawyers, in which case they would be regulated by the Law Society, or Psychologists who are regulated by the College of Alberta Psychologists.
Q. Our P.C. has decided that our children will take swimming lessons and will not attend or play hockey anymore. Is this allowed?
A. If you have signed an agreement with your P.C. giving that P.C. decision making powers over extra-curricular activities, or parenting powers in general, then yes, the P.C. can make this decision and it is binding.
Q. I’ve decided I don’t like the P.C. can I withdraw from the process?
A. The answer is usually no. Most P.C.s set out a term in their agreement or in the court order that appoints them, confirming that one party cannot unilaterally withdraw from the process. This means that the power to remove the P.C. can be very limited and can be extremely expensive as an application is required to the court of Queen’s Bench. At Mincher Koeman we can provide further guidance and information on when a P.C. can be removed.
Q. I have a P.C. with Arbitration Powers and I have asked that he/ she makes a decision about the children spending Spring Break with me. The P.C. has refused to consider this. Are they allowed to refuse to decide the matter?
A. No. If your agreement states that the P.C. is authorized to make decisions about Spring Break and a party requests that the matter of Spring Break is arbitrated, then the P.C. has to proceed to arbitration on that issue. The P.C. does not have to give the party requesting this the outcome they want, but the P.C. must make a decision; this is the due process that is guaranteed by the arbitration process.
Q. The P.C. has stated they will proceed to make a decision, and no-one will cross-examine the witnesses – is this allowed?
A. Yes. If the parties have agreed in advance to this process. However, if there has been no prior agreement by both parties to a process excluding cross-examination of witness, then the P.C. cannot dictate that process. Most P.C. agreements have provisions setting out how the process of any arbitration is to be determined. It is always important to truly review and understand the P.C. agreement that you are being asked to sign.
The above are only a sample of some of the more common questions that people have about Parenting Coordinators. While our previous blog addressing Parenting Coordination and what parties should be aware of addressed more concerns with the lack of regulation over Parenting Coordination in Alberta, we would simply close with the reminder to parties who are considering retaining a Parenting Coordinator: You are retaining this person to make decisions on how your child should be parented; you are effectively giving up your right to make parenting decisions over your own child, and if you don’t like the decisions made by the Parenting Coordinator, there is often very little you can do about it. Always check the qualifications of the proposed Parenting Coordinator and do your research on that person before making a decision.