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What Is Co-Parenting?

In its simplest form, co-parenting is a post-divorce or post-separation parenting method that emphasizes working together. This parenting style requires open communication, flexibility, and parents' ability to put aside their differences. The goal of co-parenting is to provide a stable, supportive parenting relationship in the service of the child's best interests.

In recent years, co-parenting has seen a surge in popularity and is often pushed as the ideal solution to parenting after a divorce. While there are many benefits to co-parenting, this method isn't right for every family. In some situations, it may even be detrimental to try and force a co-parenting relationship. Every family is different, and instead of worrying about what other parents are doing, you should focus on what you and your family need to thrive.

Situations in Which Co-Parenting Might Not Work

Co-parenting works best in low-conflict situations and when the parents have joint or 50/50 custody. In circumstances in which one parent has sole custody, co-parenting may be ineffective and impractical. Similarly, for those who have gone through a high-conflict separation, or if there are instances of domestic abuse, co-parenting may be impossible.

Parallel Parenting: An Alternative to Co-Parenting

Suppose you are struggling to make co-parenting work or are just beginning to develop a parenting plan and know that co-parenting will not benefit your family. In that case, you may want to consider the parallel parenting method. This style of parenting is, in many ways, the opposite of co-parenting. Instead of emphasizing a shared approach, each parent uses their own parenting methods when the children are with them. The two parents have limited contact with each other, and they set the rules of their own household separately from what the other parent establishes.

Parallel Parenting Can Reduce Conflict

Many people are surprised by how effective parallel parenting can be. However, in high-stress situations, the parallel parenting method has been known to reduce conflict and lead to a more stable environment for the children. When parents can't get along, adopting a parallel parenting method enables them to disengage from each other while still focusing on their children's needs.

When developing a parallel parenting plan, often the goal is to find neutrality in a volatile situation. Common methods of achieving this include locating a neutral pickup/drop off point, delineating specific holidays to specific parents, and designating particular responsibilities to each parent, such as who is responsible for attending parent-teacher meetings.

Parallel Parenting Can Help Create Consistency for Children

Though perhaps surprising, parallel parenting can facilitate consistency for children. While they may have different rules, routines, and household responsibilities at each parent’s house, the children know what to expect from each parent. There are fewer surprises and fewer upsets to their daily lives. This can help children feel more secure post-divorce.

Parallel Parenting Doesn't Mean You Don't Communicate

Even if one person has sole physical custody, both parents may still share legal custody of the children. This means that parents will still need to communicate and work with each other to make important decisions for their children. However, that communication is limited to specific topics and situations.

Parents also may find it helpful to reduce their approved communication methods through a website or app, like Our Family Wizard. When in a high-conflict situation, having a shared parenting calendar, budgeting tools, and an online communication portal, all in one location, can be highly beneficial. In some cases, parents may be ordered by a judge to utilize these tools.

Parallel Parenting Helps Reduce Parental Stress

With parallel parenting, boundaries between the parents are emphasized, providing the parents with greater structure. Many people underestimate the value of managing expectations and setting boundaries after a divorce. Doing so can help reduce stress and anxiety and help parents feel more confident when making parenting decisions.

How to Transition to a Parallel Parenting Model?

Depending on your situation, transitioning away from a co-parenting model may require modifying a parenting plan or other family court order. If you are unsure how to go about adjusting the way you and your ex co-parent, you might want to reach out to a trusted lawyer familiar with custody matters. Your attorney can review your custody arrangement and help you determine if you need to involve the courts.

Even if you do not need to go to court, you should still work with a lawyer when developing a new parenting plan. An attorney can help you make sure your children's best interests are being met and that your rights as a parent are being protected. If you have questions about your custody orders or other family court matter, contact Mitchell & West LLC. We are passionate about helping families secure a better future.