Below are FAQs for Co-Parenting Services, as well as Post-Divorce Family Therapy and Reunification Therapy. Policies and information are subject to change without notice.

_________________________________________________________________________

Co-Parenting Services

What does it mean when my attorney or a judge says we need “co-parenting” help or assistance?

That depends on the severity of your co-parent conflict. Co-parents who are struggling during or shortly after their separation or divorce may simply need a basic class and a few sessions of counseling to help them transition from a difficult romantic relationship to a more practical business-like interaction. Other co-parents, who have a history of returning to the court for contempt or modification actions over a number of years, are likely to need accountability in a more intense process that offers third-party assistance in their ongoing conflicts.

What types of co-parenting services does CNFC offer?

There are several different interventions that CNFC provides:

  1. Basic Navigating Family Change Seminar: Designed for all parents who are seeking divorce, legitimation, custody modification, guardianship, etc. It is typically ordered by the court in cases in which minor children are shared by parents who do not live in the same home anymore. Anyone interested may attend. It is a lecture-based seminar and the goal is to create awareness about how divorce and separation affects children, how the grief process impacts everyone in the family, and how co-parent conflict negatively affects children. Parenting skills in the context of divorce are also taught to help individual parents understand the positive impact one parent can have on the child’s overall experience. Cost is $40/person. Co-parents can attend together if they wish. Seminars are held 3-4 times per month at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center; and 2-3 times per month at the DeKalb County Courthouse. To register in Gwinnett: https://www.gwinnettcourts.com/court-programs/parenting-seminar.aspx. To register in DeKalb: https://www.dekalbsuperiorcourt.com/parenting-seminar/.
  • Advanced Issues in Co-Parenting Workshop: Designed for moderate-high co-parent conflict while a court-case is pending or shortly thereafter. It is a 4-hour workshop (either ordered by the court or done voluntarily) to help parents learn how to communicate in a more structured and business-like manner; and to assist them in understanding how important their role as an individual parent is in their children’s lives. These two concepts can make a huge difference in how one parent sees his/her part in the co-parent relationship. When one parent makes the choice to handle things differently, it can lessen the co-parent conflict in a way that benefits the parent and the child. Workshops are held 2-3 times per month at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center and are limited to 15 participants per class. Cost is $60/person. Co-parents cannot attend the same class. Spouses (or step-parents) of the attending co-parents are welcome and encouraged to attend. To register: https://www.gwinnettcourts.com/court-programs/advanced-co-parenting-workshop.aspx
  • Co-Parent Counseling: Designed for low-moderate co-parent conflict and best used as an initial effort following final divorce or separation (not while a court-case is pending). This confidential conflict intervention is designed to help co-parents learn how to redefine their co-parent relationship and manage expectations around it. It is a brief intervention (6-8 sessions) for parents who have a low-moderate level of conflict, and this six-session model offers psychoeducational components, as well as coaching interventions to teach and model proper boundaries in the co-parent relationship, as well as how to set boundaries with children so that they can be free of their parents’ conflict and worries. This is a natural next step after the court-ordered Basic Navigating Family Change seminar to expand on the concepts taught in the class, providing customized help from a trained therapist. Because of the brief nature of this intervention, there is no interaction with legal representatives (other than prior to getting involved) and it is a confidential process, so the therapist is not expected to report or testify for the court or for either party. If parties desire to extend the counseling for longer than six sessions, they may, however the goal is for the co-parent counselor to provide skills and tools to the parents to use on their own without the ongoing help of the counselor. Cost is $150 per one-hour session and is split between the parents (unless a court-order states otherwise). Sessions take place at the appointed CNFC therapist’s office in Lawrenceville.
  • Parenting Coordination: Designed for unmanageable co-parent conflict in which the likelihood that the parents will return court in the future is high. Parenting Coordination is a neutral court-ordered conflict management intervention, after the court case is finalized, to help parents learn how to limit communication and execute their court-ordered parenting plan in a business-like way, utilizing a parallel parenting style. This is a natural next step after the Advanced Issues in Co-Parenting Workshop to give co-parents ongoing coaching and help with their negative communication patterns and interactions. It is typically a 12-18-month intervention and the goal is to give parents an alternative to litigation as long as their children are minors. It provides tools and skills that will reduce the risk that they will return to the court system as their means of conflict resolution. This is a non-confidential intervention for co-parents who desire the accountability of knowing the parenting coordinator could report to the court or testify about the co-parents in the PC process. The PC may discuss the case with other professionals involved with the family (attorneys, therapists, guardians ad litem, custody evaluators, etc.) in order to act as a case manager with regard to co-parent communication and to insure all professionals are working toward the same co-parent goals. The PC may or may not meet with the children depending on the circumstances, and may invite other family members (grandparents, step-parents, etc.) if it seems helpful to do so. After the initial period of working with the co-parents (12-18 months), the parenting coordinator weans the co-parents from the PC process over time, with the co-parents only returning to parenting coordination when conflict arises that they cannot resolve on their own. The hope is that the co-parents will use the services of a PC to try to resolve their future differences as a first resort before calling their attorneys to initiate a court proceeding. Cost is $150 per one-hour session and is split between the parents (unless a court-order states otherwise). Sessions take place at the appointed CNFC parenting coordinator’s office in Lawrenceville.

How do we determine which intervention is best for us?

Talk to your attorney about your situation first. What is the level of your co-parent conflict? Do you want a confidential process (in which no one will talk about what happened during the sessions) or do you need to know that the court will be informed if your co-parent resists or becomes problematic? You can always start with the classes (Basic Seminar or Advanced Workshop) and decide after that what would be helpful to you. If you and/or your attorney have difficulty determining the best intervention, CNFC offers a Conflict Assessment process, in which we will meet with each parent for an individual one-hour session and determine after hearing the background and their perspectives what intervention would be best for their family. A lot of money is typically spent on legal services, so CNFC is committed to helping families efficiently and effectively by providing only what we think they need. However, if orders are written for the wrong intervention without our input, the parents run the risk of spending unnecessary money and time in an intervention that will not meet their particular needs. Therefore, it is always best to contact Diane Dierks at CNFC (404-218-1739 or diane@cnfc.org) prior to writing a proposed court order, mediation agreement, or consent order.

Why is it recommended to wait until after a court case is resolved before utilizing Co-Parent Counseling or Parenting Coordination interventions?

While a court case is pending, emotions are high, motivations are negative, and professionals such as attorneys, custody evaluators, mediators, and guardians ad litem are often involved. While the co-parenting specialist will be attempting to get the parties o focus on the future, attorneys and others may be asking the parties to build a case against each other, which keeps them focused on the past. These two goals tend to be in competition with one another and can confuse the parties as they appropriately need to listen to legal advice, but are also trying to navigate the co-parent specialist’s conflict resolution protocols. There are a few occasions when CNFC may get involved while a case is pending, but that requires prior consultation and approval from Diane Dierks. Typically it is best to use the Basic Navigating Family Change or Advanced Issues in Co-Parenting courses while the case is pending and then order Co-Parent Counseling or Parenting Coordination as a post-case intervention.

What kind of language is needed in a court order for one of these services?

The Basic Navigating Family Change seminar is a standing order for most all cases, so there is no language needed for that. The Advanced Workshop is ordered frequently by judges and needs only to be mentioned by name, along with the deadline for which the parent is to complete it. For Conflict Assessment, Co-Parent Counseling and Parenting Coordination, CNFC can provide sample orders for parents and attorneys to use. Simply contact Diane Dierks at CNFC (404-218-1739 or diane@cnfc.org). She can send you the latest version of the sample order you need.

When is payment processed for Co-Parent Counseling & Parenting Coordination fees?

Payment for Co-Parent Counseling can be processed in two different ways. Parties can pay up front for all six sessions ($450 per parent) via cash, money order, or PayPal invoice (a 3% fee is charged to use PayPal). If either parent does not want to pay up front (or you request to have more than six sessions), we require that a credit/debit card be kept on file so that payment is charged at the end of each month for the sessions in that month. A credit card authorization form is signed at that time by each party.

Payment for Parenting Coordination is different since the PC process is very structured and the coordinator must take some time in the first few months to accomplish some out-of-session work, such as talking to other professionals involved, coaching the parents in their email communication, and going over the court-ordered parenting plan to provide advice and guidance about its execution. To avoid having to bill clients for those activities, and risk not getting paid in a timely manner, a retainer of $1,500 per parent is paid up front (via cash, money order, or PayPal invoice), which generally lasts for the first 90-120 days. The retainer ensures that the process can be accomplished in a way that is proven to be successful without being halted for non-payment of either party. How long the retainer lasts often depends on the parties’ compliance with the PC’s recommendations and advice. After the first 90-120 days, the PC will determine whether or not to transition to a monthly payment plan depending on the co-parents’ progress at that point. Once PC clients go to a monthly payment plan, we require that a credit/debit card be kept on file so that payment is charged at the end of each month for the sessions/activities performed in that month. A credit card authorization form is signed at that time by each party.

Will I be charged when my co-parent misses an appointment or doesn’t comply with a Parenting Coordination recommendation?

Most of the time, the parents share equally in the costs of PC, however, there are times in which only one parent will be charged for the PC’s time, such as missed appointments or non-compliance that leads to additional work by the PC that involves dealing only with one parent. Because of the joint nature of all communication, those times are rare, but they do happen on occasion.

What forms of payment do you accept?

Both the Basic and Advanced courses offered through the court are paid for by the participant upon arriving to the seminar/workshop. At check-in, the court accepts cash, debit or credit card. For Co-Parent Counseling or Parenting Coordination, CNFC accepts cash, money order or debit/credit card, payable via PayPal invoice. However, cash or money order can be accepted for the initial payment or retainer by making prior arrangements with Diane Dierks.

Are there any discounts for low-income clients?

CNFC is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation and we often have money available from private donations in order to provide fee discount scholarships. Anyone making less than $75,000 gross per year would qualify for a sliding-scale scholarship discount. In order to apply for a scholarship, you must provide CNFC with a copy of your most recent child support worksheet filed with the court. If it is more than five years old, we require a pay stub or any proof of income that shows your current gross monthly or annual income. Scholarship monies are awarded only when funds are available, and funds cannot be guaranteed to last for a specific period of time. Encourage your attorneys and other professionals to donate to CNFC to ensure we have funds to continue to help low-income clients. Donations are tax-deductible.

How are therapists appointed for each intervention or case, and can we get started right away?

Qualified professionals are scheduled by CNFC’s Education Director to facilitate the Basic and Advanced courses a year ahead of time. The therapists and professionals who provide Conflict Assessments, Co-Parent Counseling and Parenting Coordination have contracts with CNFC and are under the supervision of Executive and Clinical Director, Diane Dierks. She chooses and appoints each professional for these cases based on their experience and availability at the time the case is ready for appointment. Cases do not become “ready” for appointment until such time all paperwork is signed and returned to her by the parties; and required payments/retainers are received by both parties. For this reason, clients may be placed on a waiting list if there is a delay in receiving paperwork or retainer funds and a contract therapist is not available once the requirements are completed. When clients are placed on our waiting list, they are put on hold for 30 days. If no one is available at the end of 30 days to take the case, a letter will be written to the parties providing referrals to other comparable professionals who may be able to accommodate. This is another reason to contact CNFC prior to writing an order for co-parent services – to check on availability of professionals at a given point in time.

Reunification or Post-Divorce

Family Therapy

What types of services does CNFC offer when children resist visiting a parent or parent/child relationships are fractured because of divorce or court conflict?

There are two interventions that can be recommended or ordered that are offered by CNFC, but because there are so many variables and complexities involved, an initial Conflict Assessment may be the best way to determine how to proceed. Also, consultation with attorneys and the guardian ad litem is recommended to insure that all professionals and parties are in agreement about the most appropriate intervention.

  • Post-Divorce Family Therapy: Relationships may be strained as a result of a court case or family event in which the children are angry and beginning to visitation or there has not been a six-month or more period of estrangement. In these cases, the children may be having difficulty re-establishing normal relationships with either or both parents and the family as a whole needs assistance in expressing their feelings and learning how to move beyond the difficulties of divorce or family separation. The goal of this therapy is not to reconnect the co-parents in a meaningful relationship, but to benefit the children in their ongoing relationships with both parents. However, the therapist may encourage and teach appropriate co-parenting boundaries in order to minimize conflict for the sake of the children. This therapeutic intervention is best done AFTER a court case is finalized and no legal action is pending. It is a unique form of family therapy and is executed with a similar structure and commitment of confidentiality to all family members as traditional therapeutic processes. Therefore, the therapist is not expected to testify or make verbal or written reports to anyone outside of the family.
  • Reunification Therapy: This therapy is designed for parents/children who have been estranged for six months or more. The main goal of reunification therapy is to remove any barriers that might be preventing a parent and child from having a healthy, productive relationship. The goal is not to promote a perfect parent/child relationship (or even one as close as the child may have with other family members), but just one in which the child can have access to and feel love from a parent who represents a primary attachment. The possible barriers to the relationship can be many, such as the passage of time, multiple court interventions, poor parenting skills, lack of understanding of child development, substance abuse problems, parental alienation by the custodial parent, anger management problems, personality disorders, child mental health issues, etc. The Reunification Therapist’s job is to identify the barriers and then attempt to remove them through appropriate therapeutic or practical interventions, if possible, and/or referrals to services that can assist in the reunification efforts. This therapy can be accomplished while a custody case is pending as long as there is a Guardian ad litem or Judge making the decisions along the way about custody/visitation. If the case has resolved, the court order must give specific direction to the therapist about custody/visitation goals, since the therapist is not ethically or legally able to make those kinds of decisions as part of the therapeutic process. More about Reunification Therapy is answered in the FAQs to follow.

What is the structure of Reunification Therapy?

CNFC employs a two-therapist model for all reunification cases, one to work with the custodial parent and the other to work with the estranged parent and children. This model has proven to provide a layer of protection for the therapy process, as well as a meeting-of-the-minds, so to speak, to ensure important information and behaviors are not missed by either professional. The Reunification Therapist working with the estranged parent and children will conduct an initial assessment, not to determine IF reunification therapy should take place, but HOW the therapeutic process should unfold. To do this, the Reunification Therapists will meet with both parties individually, the child[ren], and the child[ren] and the estranged parent, as they deem appropriate. During that time, the Reunification Therapist will also review mental health evaluations and legal documents from the past to get perspective on the case. After an initial period of assessment with the parties and the child[ren], the Reunification Therapist will devise and publish to the parties a written Reunification Therapy Treatment Plan and recommended visitation activities, in order to restore the father’s/mother’s relationship with the child[ren] in accordance with the current court-ordered parenting plan or other goals set forth by the court or the guardian ad litem. The parties are expected to follow the Reunification Therapist’s schedule and recommendations, which will include practicing coping skills learned in the therapy to deal with anxiety about the reunification. Parties will also encourage the child[ren] to practice the coping skills taught by the Reunification Therapist to assist them with their negative emotions regarding reunifying with their father.

Will the Reunification Therapist end the therapy process if he/she believes any kind of abuse has occurred?

It is assumed by the Reunification Therapist that the court has heard and considered all past allegations of abuse or neglect, and despite those allegations, orders Reunification Therapy as an appropriate intervention that will not present a danger or harm to the child[ren]. Therefore, the Reunification Therapist will not suspend or halt the therapy based on any family member’s allegations about the past, perceptions of the truth, or anxiety about past events. Any negative events that happen while the Reunification Therapist is engaged with the family will be taken into consideration on a case-by-case basis, but will not necessarily end the therapy process.

Is the Reunification Therapy process confidential?

Both parties waive for themselves any privilege of confidentiality and do waive on behalf of their minor child[ren] any such privilege of confidentiality. The Reunification Therapist shall be authorized to speak with all other professionals involved in the case currently or in the past (the Guardian ad litem, children’s therapists, parties’ therapists, parties’ attorneys, DFCS caseworkers, visitation supervisors, etc.) and parties agree to sign an Authorization for Release of Information to allow communication among professionals. Both parents shall participate and cooperate fully with the Reunification Therapist. However, the Reunification Therapist is mindful of how divulging some information provided by the children may be harmful to the children and will always keep that in mind as information is shared with other professionals or the court.

If my ex is the estranged parent, so why do I have to be involved in the therapy?

The custodial parent in reunification cases is seen as the one the children trust the most, so he/she has a lot of influence with the children. Additionally, custodial parents often have understandable anxiety when the children begin to spend time with the estranged parent, especially if there have been past allegations of abuse. In order to help the custodial parent manage that anxiety and not allow it to affect the children’s progress, he/she is assigned a therapist to work with, as well as assist in expressing the custodial parent’s concerns to the other therapist who is primarily working with the estranged parent and children. These are very complicated processes and require a team of two therapists and the whole family to be informed, active, and supportive of the coping skills being learned by everyone.

How do we determine which intervention is best for us?

Talk to your attorney about your situation first. What is the level of your co-parent conflict? Do you want a confidential process (in which no one will talk about what happened during the sessions) or do you need to know that the court will be informed if your co-parent resists or becomes problematic? You can always start with the classes (Basic Seminar or Advanced Workshop) and decide after that what would be helpful to you. If you and/or your attorney have difficulty determining the best intervention, CNFC offers a Conflict Assessment process, in which we will meet with each parent for an individual one-hour session and determine after hearing the background and their perspectives what intervention would be best for their family. A lot of money is typically spent on legal services, so CNFC is committed to helping families efficiently and effectively by providing only what we think they need. However, if orders are written for the wrong intervention without our input, the parents run the risk of spending unnecessary money and time in an intervention that will not meet their particular needs. Therefore, it is always best to contact Diane Dierks at CNFC (404-218-1739 or diane@cnfc.org) prior to writing a proposed court order, mediation agreement, or consent order.

What kind of language is needed in a court order for one of these services?

CNFC can provide sample orders for parents and attorneys to use. Simply contact Diane Dierks at CNFC (404-218-1739 or diane@cnfc.org). She can send you the latest version of the sample order you need.

When is payment processed for Post-Divorce Family or Reunification Therapy?

Payment for Post-Divorce Family Therapy can be processed by pre-paying $450 up front (per parent) in the form of cash or money order, which covers approximately 6-1/2 hours of therapy, or they can allow CNFC to keep a debit/credit card on file to charge at the end of each month for the sessions in that month. An authorization to charge credit card form is signed by the client and there is an additional 3% charge for credit card use.

Payment for Reunification Therapy is different since the RT process is very structured and the therapist must take some time in the first few months to accomplish some out-of-session work, such as talking to other professionals involved, coaching the parents in their email communication, and going over the court-ordered parenting plan to provide advice and guidance about its execution. To avoid having to bill clients for those activities, and risk not getting paid in a timely manner, a retainer of $1,500 per parent is paid up front via cash or money order, which generally lasts for the first 90-120 days. If only one parent is ordered to pay for the therapy, the retainer amount is $3,000. If either parent wishes to pay with a credit or debit card via PayPal, a 3% charge will be assessed to cover our cost of merchant fees. The retainer ensures that the process can be accomplished in a way that is proven to be successful without being halted for non-payment of either party.

Will I be charged when my co-parent misses an appointment or doesn’t comply with a recommendation?

Most of the time, the parents share equally in the costs of RT, however, there are times in which only one parent will be charged for the RT’s time such as in requested individual sessions or for missed appointments or non-compliance that leads to additional work by the RT that involves dealing only with one parent. Much of that depends on how the court order is structured and the circumstances of the case.

Are there any discounts for low-income clients?

CNFC is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation and we often have money available from private donations in order to provide fee discount scholarships. Anyone making less than $75,000 gross per year may qualify for a sliding-scale scholarship discount. In order to apply for a scholarship, you must provide CNFC with a copy of your most recent child support worksheet filed with the court. If it is more than five years old, we require a pay stub or any proof of income that shows your current gross monthly or annual income. Scholarship monies are awarded only when funds are available, and funds cannot be guaranteed to last for a specific period of time. Encourage your attorneys and other professionals to donate to CNFC to ensure we have funds to continue to help low-income clients. Donations are tax-deductible.

How are therapists appointed for each intervention or case, and can we get started right away?

CNFC therapists have contracts with CNFC and are under the supervision of Executive and Clinical Director, Diane Dierks. She chooses and appoints each professional for these cases based on their experience and availability at the time the case is ready for appointment. Cases do not become “ready” for appointment until such time all paperwork is signed and returned to her by the parties; and required payments/retainers are received by both parties. For this reason, clients may be placed on a waiting list if there is a delay in receiving paperwork or retainer funds and a contract therapist is not available once the requirements are completed. When clients are placed on our waiting list, they are put on hold for 30 days. If no one is available at the end of 30 days to take the case, a letter will be written to the parties providing referrals to other comparable professionals who may be able to accommodate. This is another reason to contact CNFC prior to writing an order for co-parent services – to check on availability of professionals at a given point in time.