The Concept of Parallel Parenting

Is Parallel Parenting Right for You?

Each year, over 1 million children in the United States witness their parent’s divorce. While this sudden life change can be tricky to manage, parallel parenting can be a useful way to provide your child with stability. In situations where parents can’t get along with each other, parallel parenting helps ensure their relationships with their children go unchanged.

What Is Parallel Parenting?

Parallel parenting aims to solve a common problem in divorces. For many years, divorced parents felt like they had to either co-parent with their ex or stay out of their child’s life altogether. However, that leads to problems when both parents cannot interact with each other without arguing or hurting each other. To fix this issue, parallel parenting encourages parents to share time with their children individually but not spend time with each other.

Unlike co-parenting, parallel parenting doesn’t require you to do things like:

  • Collaborate with your ex about child-rearing plans
  • Provide emergency child care during their custody time
  • Use the same set of rules as them at your house
  • See them at school events

Instead, the goal of parallel parenting is to avoid seeing or communicating with your ex as much as possible. You both still spend a lot of time with the child, but you are not each other’s partners in child-rearing. With parallel parenting, you both agree to let the other person handle things their way during their own custody time and operate independently during your custody time.

How Parallel Parenting Works

In practice, parallel parenting involves creating a very clear plan and then sticking to it. You and your ex try to stay out of each other’s way and use intermediaries to communicate. Though every family’s parallel parenting custody agreement is a little different, the process usually involves following these steps:

  • Both parents sit down with their lawyers and discuss their preferences.
  • The divorce lawyers either meet to negotiate an arrangement or use the court system to finalize an agreement.
  • The eventual parenting plan will cover all details of when each parent has custody, how holidays are handled, and how parenting decisions are handled.
  • Each parent will care for the child independently during their custody time.
  • To communicate essential details, each parent may write down things in a book or make notes in a parenting app.
  • If there are any conflicts or disagreements, the parents may consult with lawyers or go to court to adjust the parenting plan.

Parallel parenting works because it relies on the legal system to avoid conflict. Unlike a traditional divorce agreement, parallel parenting formally defines and states your boundaries. Since everything is a legal arrangement, an ex that repeatedly breaks your parenting plan might even face legal action. These potential consequences often encourage difficult exes to behave more reasonably.

The Benefits of Parallel Parenting

The primary benefit of parallel parenting is that it cuts down on chances for disagreements and fights. If your ex is prone to belittling or intimidating you, parallel parenting helps you avoid them and stay safe. This form of parenting after divorce is particularly useful if you and your ex had a contentious or highly emotional relationship.

Being able to reduce the risk of disagreements with your ex does more than just provide you with peace of mind and less stress. It also provides a lot of benefits for your children. When your children don’t see their caregivers fighting all the time, they experience these advantages:

  • Not feeling like they need to referee their parents’ relationship
  • An improved sense of stability and normalcy
  • More certainty about their safety and their place in their family
  • Better ability to focus on school or hobbies
  • Lowered risk of developing mental health issues
  • More attention and focus from each parent
  • A better understanding of what healthy relationships look like

Potential Parallel Parenting Challenges to Be Aware Of

Overall, parallel parenting can be a very helpful solution for parents. However, it doesn’t instantly solve every problem that you and your ex might face. Keep in mind that there are some potential cons associated with parallel parenting such as:

  • There are strict rules about how you can interact with your ex.
  • You’ll miss some holidays and special occasions with your child.
  • It may take a little more time and effort to figure out your custody agreement.
  • You can’t control what your ex does with your child during their custody time.
  • Communication or transfers may take more time.

These issues don’t necessarily make parallel parenting impossible or unpleasant. However, you’ll need to thoroughly consider them and make plans for how to deal with them if you want to try parallel parenting.

Do You Need Your Ex’s Agreement?

Many people who hear about parallel parenting would love to try it but think that their ex would never go for it. While it’s certainly true that your ex’s approval is helpful, it’s not necessary. The beauty of parallel parenting is that it’s designed to work even when both parties cannot see eye to eye.

If your ex doesn’t agree with your hopes to parallel parent, the main difference is that you’ll need to finalize details in court. When both parties agree, you can draft up a parenting plan, sign it, and file it with the government. If you can’t agree, you’ll need your lawyer to schedule a court hearing and present your reasons for your parenting plan. If the judge agrees with your requests, you can parallel parent no matter how your ex feels about it. Usually, court-ordered parallel parenting plans are more likely to occur if:

  • You’ve tried to co-parent in the past but couldn’t get along.
  • The relationship ended as a result of spousal abuse.
  • Your ex has a documented history of using childcare discussions as a way of harassing you.
  • Your ex has failed to follow more relaxed parenting plans in the past.

How to Create a Parallel Parenting Plan

Ultimately, parallel parenting’s success tends to rely on the parenting plan you create. An unclear or vague plan can leave a lot of room for issues to arise. If you want things to go as smoothly as possible, it could help to work with a divorce lawyer and get everything in writing. Your eventual plan for parallel parenting usually needs to include all of these details:

  • Where the child is at what times
  • How each party is allowed to communicate with each other
  • How you will exchange the child
  • Who makes agreements about things like schooling and medical care
  • What each parent will do if an emergency occurs
  • How you will handle holidays, special events, and extracurricular activities
  • Who pays for what expenses and how child support is handled
  • Rules about using an app, mediator, or notebook to discuss matters

At the Law Office of Kelly Berton Rocco, our team can help you create a clear, legally defined custody plan. We can assist you with everything from drafting custody arrangements to handling communication with your ex. To learn more about our services, call our Hackensack office at 201-343-0078 or fill out our contact form.

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