Thursday, November 3, 2016

Parenting Plans and Special Needs Children:

When parents separate or divorce it is a difficult time for adults and especially for children. There is a roller coaster of emotions to deal with and navigating the procedural issues of who gets what, financial responsibilities and most important parental responsibilities, things start to get stressful quick. What happens when the divorcing parents have a child with special needs? You guessed it, the Perfect Storm.

Many parents ask for “full custody” or won’t take less than a 50/50 timesharing schedule. Of course, it is natural for parents to want to spend as much time with their children as possible. However, it is important to realize that parents must be sensitive to the needs of their child. The best interest of the child is actually the guiding principle for Florida Courts when determining issues of timesharing and parental responsibility. Prior to the judge making the determination (barring an emergency or an issue of safety of the child) the parents have the opportunity to go to mediation to attempt to reach an agreement between themselves on how they will raise their child by developing a parenting plan that encompasses time spent with each parent and the responsibilities of each parent without the court making these decisions for them.

Reaching an amicable agreement between the parents is important, especially when a child with special needs is involved. Special needs children require more deliberate considerations from their parents regarding developmental abilities, stability, emotional support, medical needs, educational needs, etc. When these decisions are left up to the opinions of experts and ultimately the decision of the Judge, your child loses. The Judge will NEVER know your child as well as you do. You, as the parents, know your child’s unique individual needs and you are in the best position to craft the parenting plan that meets those needs.

There is no question, having a child with special needs, requires a lot of patience, communication, compromise, effort and sacrifice between parents of intact families. These requirements only become that much more important when parents no longer live together. To do what is best for your child instead of what is best for yourself may mean letting go of the inter-parent conflict and sacrificing quantity for quality.

A quality relationship with both parents is as vital to your child's well-being as proper nutrition, medical care, clothing and housing. Know your child's needs, figure out how those needs can be met and meet them. Another benefit to amicably resolving your conflict is the ability to be creative. The Judge does not have that luxury when crafting a parenting plan for your child; he/she is confined to some pretty narrow parameters. You have an opportunity to take this great responsibility you have been given and create an environment for your child that puts his/her needs first.

NEED HELP? Ask about our non-litigation family mediation, education or parenting coordination services.

Attorney Heidi M. Crimins of Crimins Family Law and Conflict Solutions Firm, PLLC is a Supreme Court of Florida Certified Family Mediator and Qualified Parenting Coordinator in the Seventh (Volusia County, Flagler County, Putnam County, St. John’s County), Ninth (Orange County), Fifth (Lake County and Marion County) and Eighteenth (Seminole County) Judicial Circuits of Florida.

For more information please contact us at (386) 873-2756.

We offer Free Consultations

643 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720

Monday, September 19, 2016


Mediation and Parenting Coordination are both forms of alternative dispute resolution processes that although they have overlapping goals they do however provide important but distinct services.

Mediation is a good method of resolving child issues such as parenting plans for the following reasons:
  • The parents can work out agreements between themselves.
  • You can tailor the agreement to your particular circumstances.
  • You will receive input from a neutral third-party regarding the type of plans helpful in your situation.
  • You can learn techniques for reaching agreements with each other which you can use over time in the future, with or without a mediator.
  • You can avoid the acrimony and financial cost of litigation.
  • Mediation separates the people from the problems.
  • Focuses on interests, not positions.
  • Creative problem-solving and provide multiple options for mutual gains.
  • Use objective standards to seek outcomes.

The parenting coordination process, is handled by an experienced and specially trained attorney or mental health professional uses skills learned over many years of education and experience to help parents:
  • Manage their emotions
  • Communicate more effectively
  • Understand the impact of conflict on children
  • Learn about children’s developmental needs
  • Negotiate appropriate post-divorce or separation boundaries
  • Develop a sensitivity to their children’s needs
  • Identify mutually agreeable parenting goals
  • Brainstorm options to meet goals
  • Address co-parenting issues in a non-adversarial setting
  • Evaluate options to reach agreements within legal guidelines
  •  Avoid the continued financial cost of legal fees and expenses of litigation

There are several alternative dispute resolution options. Each of these options will focus on respectful communication and understanding of the other parent’s interest. The goal is forward movement, it is not about trying to resolve why the parents have ended their intimate relationship but instead structuring your future relationship with each other.

Alternative dispute resolution options are not necessarily an “easy” option, the processes can be a lot of work and can be emotionally charged. These processes are not “let’s hold hands and sing Kumbaya” approaches. There is compromise on both sides. The parents don’t always walk away from the process “happy” but there is a general sense of satisfaction in how the process was handled. The parents also benefit by leaving with the tools necessary to resolve disputes that may arise in the future.  Finally, the parties are more likely to follow the parenting plan because it is a plan that they have worked out together, under their terms.


Parenting Coordination is a child-focused alternative dispute resolution process that combines assessment, education about communication and co-parenting, case management, conflict management, negotiation and, when necessary, decision-making functions. Parenting coordinators have extensive training, experience and qualifications for working with high-conflict situations related to separation or divorce.

Parenting coordinators are used in moderate to high-conflict families who have typically demonstrated a long-term inability or unwillingness to make parenting decisions together, on their own, to comply with parenting agreements and orders. Parenting coordinators can assist in reducing their child-related conflicts and to protect their children from the impact of such conflict. Conflicts that arise such as parenting schedules, exchange times and locations, extracurricular activities, education choices and medical decisions.

Parenting coordination is a better way of resolving parenting plan issues than returning to court. The parenting coordinator educates the parents about communication and co-parenting, child-development and harm to the children of hostility between parents. 

The Parenting Coordinator will work with others involved with the family, including mental health experts, health care personnel, social services, education and legal professionals, as well as extended family, stepparents and the children. The Parenting Coordinator may make recommendations for outside services, such as counseling, that the Parenting Coordinator may determine are needed.

Parenting Coordination is a solution oriented process. It helps parents work together for the good of their children rather than fighting each other. Parenting Coordination provides an opportunity for parents to develop an ability parent their children in a healthy, constructive way rather than perpetuating a conflict that places their children in the parents’ war zone.


Mediation is a sensible approach for couples planning to separate or divorce. Mediation may be used for many family law needs, including issues relating to child support, time-sharing/custody, equitable distribution and post-divorce issues, such as co-parenting and learning to get along in a blended family.  In the mediation process, couples meet with a trained mediator, who facilitates the voluntary agreements that the couple makes together.  During the process, the couples will address, discuss and resolve all the issues that will be written into their agreement.  Because the mediated setting is relaxed though structured, it allows couples to negotiate with each other in an atmosphere of dignity and respect. 

The mediator has no particular power or authority with regard to the outcome. While a mediator may be influential or educational and help parents to better understand the needs of a child, the mediator has no say in the final agreement the parents achieve with regard to their parenting plan or issue of dispute. The mediator’s main role is to facilitate respectful dialogue and help parents determine common objectives for their children and help devise a mutually acceptable plan to achieve those objectives between the parents.

Alternative Dispute Resolution, either through mediation or parenting coordination, is not about winners and losers. It’s about helping couples reach agreements that are not only in their best interests but in the best interest of their children. In the end, parents choose these processes because of an interest to serve the well-being of their children over parental preferences. Separation and divorce do not have to be war, rather it can be focused on restructuring the family and create a new possibility for the future without acrimony.

Heidi M. Crimins of Crimins Conflict Solutions Firm, PLLC is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator and Florida Qualified Parenting Coordinator for the Seventh, Fifth and Eighteenth Judicial Circuits. Free Initial Consultation. Call: (386) 873-2756 or E-Mail:

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What exactly are parenting coordinators?

Parenting coordinators are a child focused-method of alternative dispute resolution used in moderate-to-high conflict family law cases. A parenting coordinator is a neutral third-party brought into a case to reduce the level of conflict by helping parents to make decisions together and communicate more effectively when it concerns the parenting of their children. Parenting coordinators help in a variety of ways. First, they help the parents improve their communication skills when discussing parenting issues. Poor communication is almost always a factor in high conflict family cases. It is not possible for parents to co-parent effectively without first being able to communicate with one another.

Parenting coordinators also teach the parents about particular developmental issues faced by their children as they proceed through the divorce or separation. They will referee the conflicts between the parents in an attempt to help them reach mutual agreement. When necessary, a parenting coordinator can actually make the decisions if no agreement could be reached.

While the mandate of parenting coordinators may vary somewhat from case to case, their focus is on the small daily decisions the parents must make about their children – precisely the same small decisions that provide so much conflict and increasing loads on the court system. Individually, these decisions may each be small, but when combined as a whole, they comprise a huge portion of the problems encountered.

The neutral third-party perspective, high degree of training, and alternative approaches to reducing conflict that a parenting coordinator brings to the process are invaluable to the children, parents, lawyers and judges. Parenting coordinators provide lasting aid by teaching the parents the skills they need so that they, and their children, can have a brighter, more hopeful and harmonious future.

Heidi M. Crimins of Crimins Family Law and Conflict Solutions Firm, PLLC is a qualified parenting coordinator in the Seventh (Volusia, Flagler, Putnam St. John’s County), Ninth (Orange County), Fifth (Lake and Marion County) and Eighteenth (Seminole County) Judicial Circuits of Florida.

For more information please contact us at (386) 873-2756.


Can a parenting coordinator help?

Following a parenting plan after a divorce or separation can be difficult. Shared parenting has been ordered by the Court. Now what? Have the conflicts with the other parent regarding the minor children suddenly stopped just because you have this signed order? How about communication; did the judge signing that Order make it so that you and the other parent magically start effectively communicating? Likely not. Many parents have no real idea what shared parenting is much less how to incorporate it in their day-to-day lives. Quite often it is rarely the big, life-altering issues that cause the greatest amount of conflict between parents. The majority of conflicts are over altering agreed upon drop-off times, exchange locations or changing timesharing schedules.

A parenting coordinator may be able to help you and the other parent with just these type of issues. Parenting coordinators help parents by teaching them how to make decisions together and reduce daily conflict over ordinary decisions. By assisting parents in resolving these issues, parenting coordinators can reduce and often eliminate much of the litigation and court involvement that often occurs with the ongoing parental conflict, saving the parents time and money.

Top 10 Signs That It’s Time to Call a Parenting Coordinator[i]:
1. Your monthly legal bill exceeds your rent or mortgage payment;
2. You spend more time in your attorney’s office than with your friends;
3. Your vacations are spent reviewing depositions, drafting motions, hiring investigators, etc. etc.;
4. Your children are exhibiting classic signs and symptoms of children of high-conflict divorce, such as failing grades, sexual promiscuity, and drug use;
5. You spend more time in the courthouse than on the golf course;
6. The judge assigned to your case knows you by name and recognizes your face in the supermarket;
7. You seem to be paying for your attorney’s kids’ education instead of your own;
8. Your attorney doesn’t seem to want to take your phone calls anymore, and only reluctantly responds to your emails;
9. You seem to be having an ongoing, friendly relationship with your local process-server; and
10. You’ve hired and fired multiple attorneys, and just can’t seem to find one who “gets” you.
Wouldn’t you rather put your divorce behind you and never ever ever be forced to have a volatile engagement with your former spouse again? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to co-parent without the venomous hostility that consumes your life, and worse, hurts your children?

One of the most important benefits, is parenting coordinators can reduce the overall conflict that the entire family experiences when parents cannot get along, cannot make decisions or cannot communicate. This benefits the most defenseless victims of high conflict parenting: the children.

Heidi M. Crimins of Crimins Family Law and Conflict Solutions Firm, PLLC is a qualified parenting coordinator in the Seventh (Volusia County, Flagler County, Putnam County, St. John’s County), Ninth (Orange County), Fifth (Lake County and Marion County) and Eighteenth (Seminole County) Judicial Circuits of Florida.

For more information please contact us at (386) 873-2756.    

[i] Taken from

Sunday, August 28, 2016

What is Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Law has been around for quite some time now but recently has gained traction. In Fact, the State of Florida just passed legislation.On March 4, 2016, the Florida legislature passed HB-967, the “Collaborative Law Process Act,” which seeks to support the out-of-court settlement of divorce, paternity, and other family law cases.  Florida joins 13 other states and the District of Columbia in passing a collaborative law bill.

The collaborative process recognizes that instead of having a stranger on the bench order what is to be done for your family, spouses and parents are in the best position to resolve their disputes and reach an outcome that both parties can accept.  Collaborative practice, also known as collaborative divorce, collaborative law, or the collaborative process, is a unique form of dispute resolution where clients and their attorneys agree that, instead of spending money, time and energy fighting, all money, time, and energy is better spent on helping the parties reach an agreement.

This video gives a really good explanation about what Collaborative Law is about. Collaborative Divorce is an excellent alternative to traditional divorce litigation. I love working with clients through the collaborative process. It is a great way to preserve family relationships moving forward, especially when children are involved.

If you have further questions about the Collaborative Process. Contact Attorney Heidi M. Crimins, a Trained and Qualified Florida Collaborative Attorney. Crimins Family Law & Conflict Solutions Firm, PLLC (386) 873-2756. We offer Free Consultations.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Preserve Your Children's Well-Being During a Divorce

This list of tips below come directly from Bill Ferguson at The information was too good not to share. Each one of the tips is important to remember when it comes to keeping the focus on your children during this difficult time.
1. Do everything you can to have the family unit continue
To a child, the loss of family represents the loss of security and well-being. To minimize this, do everything you can to keep the family unit intact. Do this even though you live in different places. Attend special events together and support your children as a team. Make sure your children know that they will always be loved and taken care of by both of you.
2. Let your children know that it's okay to love both parents
Don't make them choose between Mom and Dad. Children need to have a supportive relationship with both parents. Encourage your children's involvement with the other parent and with other significant family members. Children should feel comfortable having full access to both parents and family members through email, texting, telephone calls, and personal visits. Encourage communication.
3. Reinforce the idea that your children have two homes
Children should feel that they have a special home with each parent. They should never have to choose which home is better or which is their "real home". Don't criticize or judge your children's other home. Also, make sure your children have a special place in your home that belongs to them. Do this even if it's just a section of a room.
4. Let your children know that you will always love them
Do this in both your words and your actions. When divorce occurs, children often lose their sense of security. They wonder, "If Mom and Dad can stop loving each other, they can stop loving me." Children need to know that they are loved. Tell them that the love between a parent and a child is different than between a husband and wife. Make sure your children know that they will be loved no matter what.
5. Tell your children that the divorce is not their fault
Children tend to blame themselves for the breakup. They believe that they caused the divorce. Make sure your children know that this isn't true. Tell them that the divorce is not their fault and that there is nothing they can do to change or fix the situation. Love your children enough to tell them this more than once.
6. Maintain a good working relationship with the other parent
The single biggest factor in the well-being of children in divorce is how well their parents get along with each other. Stay in communication with the other parent and do everything you can to heal your relationship, one human being to another. Don't expose your children to arguments, insults, or any other form of conflict. Discuss important issues at times when the children won’t overhear.
7. Keep the other parent advised on all important matters
Don't make this your child's responsibility. Divorce is a confusing time for children. They should not be burdened with supplying information between households. Make sure you provide the other parent sufficient details regarding school functions, extracurricular activities, and special events. Children need to be supported by both of you.
8. Make it easy for your children to express their feelings
Let them feel their hurt and let them say whatever they want to say about their situation. Listen to them. Don't judge them, suppress them, or talk them out of their feelings. Let them express their emotions and their concerns. Let them know that it's okay to feel sad and let them know that you are always available to talk.
9. Speak positively about the other parent
Avoid criticizing or saying anything negative about the other person. Children literally view themselves as half Mom and half Dad. When children hear negative remarks about one of their parents, they internalize it. They consider it an attack against themselves. When anger makes it difficult to say anything positive about the other person, don't say anything at all. This holds true for remarks concerning step-parents, grandparents, and any other significant person.
10. Allow your children to stay children
Do not use your children as a source of emotional support or make them your confidant. Children should not be exposed to information regarding court matters, child support, financial concerns, or intimate details regarding your divorce. Let them be children.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Acceptance & Moving Forward after Separation/Divorce with Children

You don't need anyone to tell you that separation and divorce are tough and come with a whole lot of emotions. In the beginning most of those emotions are negative. If you have children, they will be experiencing their own emotions and quite likely taking on some of yours. We all have to cycle through these emotions at our own pace but eventually we do have to move forward.

I am always reading books and other materials that can assist me professionally to help my clients through what is often a heartbreaking and emotionally tumultuous time in their life and their children's lives. Today I started reading a book Mom's House, Dad's House - Making Two Homes for Your Child. It is written by Isolina Ricci, Ph.D. I have not even finished the first chapter and already there is so many great nuggets of information. 

The author shares an experience of one father that held on to his anger and hurt feelings for years after the divorce and although he had remarried he was very much still attached to his first marriage. He couldn't move forward. She points out, you can obtain a legal divorce but if you hang on to the anger and hurt or whatever bad feelings and emotions that have been generated you are actually further away from being finished with your marriage than when it all started. This can have a devastating impact on your own well being but also on your current relationship and most importantly a lifelong negative impact on your children. 

With so much at stake it is important to break that attachment and refocus your energy away from the battle and instead use it more constructively to build your new family structure. Update your meaning of Family. Ignore the implications of "visitation", "custody" or "minority timesharing". Focus on setting up a real home and your own routines. Develop a new, civil working relationship with the other parent. You may be separated (or divorced) but you are both still parents and need to function as a family in your own homes. 

Now I get that the other parent may not make this easy. Over the coming weeks I will be posting different tools and resources that will hopefully assist you in this journey. There are no two families that are alike and what works for one family may not work for yours. Restructuring  new norm for your family will be hard work. There is a lot to learn but with knowledge and learning definitely comes power and hopefully it will give you the power to make the best future possible for you and your children. Children need both parents and ideally they will have two homes without fighting and where they are not conflicted by loyalty to one parent over the other. Your hard work will be worth it. Your children are worth it.