Focus on parenting co-ordinators



In South Africa, a parenting coordinator (PC) is a professional who assists parties in resolving parenting disputes, particularly in high-conflict situations. Here’s a detailed overview of their role, appointment, duties, benefits, and the circumstances under which they are employed:



Parenting coordinators (PCs) are designated to reduce the harmful impact of ongoing high-conflict co-parenting situations on children, the legal system, and the families involved. Despite the absence of specific laws in South Africa for PC appointment, courts can recommend parents for parenting coordination if it is in the best interests of their children. This appointment can be ordered by the court, included in a parenting plan, or agreed upon by the parties and approved by the court.



PCs, or Parenting Coordinators, play a vital role in child-related cases:

  • They evaluate the situation and educate parents on child development and family dynamics.
  • They emphasise the negative impact of ongoing conflict on children.
  • They facilitate communication between parents and other parties involved in the children’s lives.
  • They monitor the case and refer parents to other professionals as necessary.
  • They mediate disputes and have the authority to make binding decisions or issue directives when parents cannot agree.

The coordinator’s decision-making power must be confined to ancillary rulings, which are necessary to implement the court order, but do not alter the substance of the court order or involve a permanent change to any of the rights and obligations defined in the court order, for the coordinator not to trespass on the court’s exclusive jurisdiction in terms of the Act.

Parenting coordination is a unique process that combines various elements like assessment, conflict management, education, facilitation, case management, mediation, and limited decision-making. The main focus of this process and the duties of the parenting coordinator must be on ensuring the best interests of the child, as outlined in the Constitution and the Children’s Act.

The parenting coordination process is designed to be child-focused and is carried out by experienced mental health and/or legal professionals. These professionals have specialised training and experience in conflict management, working with high-conflict personalities, facilitating child participation, mediation, and issuing directives.



The involvement of a PC can minimise the negative impact of conflict and ongoing litigation on children as they help to ensure that the best interests of the children are maintained, which is the primary concern of the court as the upper guardian of all children.


Circumstances for employment

PCs are typically employed in cases where there is a high level of conflict between the parents that affects the well-being of the children. They are also used when parents are unable to communicate effectively or make decisions regarding the upbringing of their children. By helping parents find common ground and navigate challenging situations, PC’s can improve the overall co-parenting relationship and create a more stable environment for the children.


Decision-making powers

PCs have the power to make decisions or directives regarding disputes, which are binding on the parties until a competent court directs otherwise or the parties jointly agree otherwise. They can make directives in respect of a child’s daily routine, education, extracurricular activities, temporary care, health care, discipline, transportation, and other agreed-upon matters. However, PCs cannot make decisions regarding significant changes like guardianship, parental rights and responsibilities, major changes in child contact, relocation of the child, supervised contact, or psychological treatment for either parent.


Parenting coordination is a valuable tool in ensuring that the best interests of children are prioritised in cases of parental conflict, providing a structured approach to resolving disputes and reducing the emotional toll on all parties involved.

For more information on Guidelines for Parenting Coordination in South Africa please follow this link:


Written by Eugene Opperman (B.Proc. LLB.) (LSSA L.E.A.D., ADR Network, FAMAC, NABFAM), a legal practitioner and accredited mediator. 18 April 2024.