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Parallel parenting: What it is, how to make it work

On Behalf of | Apr 23, 2021 | Child Custody & Visitation

In a perfect world, parents who divorce would set aside their differences and complicated past and focus on co-parenting their children. However, that is not a reality for a lot of people. Instead, they need to find a way to raise their child while having minimal or no interactions with the other parent.

Parents can do this through parallel parenting.

Should you parallel parent?

This approach to parenting can be worth considering in the following situations:

  • Your communications with your ex are consistently combative.
  • You disagree on parenting styles.
  • One or both parents is absolutely unwilling to cooperate with the other.
  • One party was/is emotionally abusive of the other.

Under these and similar circumstances, a respectful, cooperative parenting arrangement may simply be impossible.

But as parents who both have rights to custody or visitation, you will continue to be in each other’s lives. Keeping those interactions to a minimum and establishing the framework for parallel parenting can help you do this as peacefully as possible.

Making this arrangement work

To make parallel parenting work, parents must first determine physical and legal custody. Where will your child live? Who can make decisions for them? When will your child spend time with each parent?

Once this element of a parenting plan is in place, parents can make rules for raising their child separately during each parent’s time with the child.

For instance, when it comes to exchanging custody, parents can decide to schedule it around school or daycare pick-ups and drop-offs so that they do not have to interact.  Having parental conflict displayed to children during exchanges is not healthy for one’s children.

You can also establish rules for attending a child’s activities. Parents might agree not to show up at the same event or decide that they will not interact with each other if they are in the same place by keeping a comfortable physical distance apart from each other.

Setting guidelines for communication is also crucial. If you do not trust each other, you cannot rely on the other for information on a child’s schooling, medical and financial needs. Instead, parenting plans can dictate that parents will notify schools, doctors and other parties that they must contact one or both parents with child-related issues. Any exchanges you do have should be in writing.

Parents are not always going to get along after a divorce. However, they can still commit to raising their child in a safe and healthy way by disengaging from each other, lessening the conflict in front of the child, and focusing on the child while in one’s physical custody.