Parallel Parenting

Parallel parenting is an arrangement for divorced parents who have demonstrated that they are unable to communicate with one another in an effective manner.

A parallel parenting plan must be in place with support from a neutral professional either in the mental health or legal field. For high-conflict families, parallel parenting provides an opportunity for co-parenting to occur without engaging with one another. Parents are disengaged from one another, although remain fully connected to their children. 

Parents may assume decision making authority in different domains (for example, one parent may be responsible for medical decisions and the other, educational). Usually, parents agree on major decisions, but separately decide on the day-to-day decisions while one parent is in charge (aka parent-in-charge).

Parallel parenting is recommended in high-conflict family situations, but usually not recommended long-term. This is to allow for time to pass to slowly rebuild trust, resolution, and cooperation. Ultimately, parents put aside hostilities in order to remain child-focused and move toward more direct communication and collaboration that is beneficial to the children.

Parallel parenting makes clear that both parents are equally important in the child’s life regardless of the hostility and acrimony between them.

Research supports that this arrangement protects the children from being placed in the middle and shields them from the conflict. The most important benefit of this is that children feel a sense of security. Children who maintain a close bond with both parents are more likely to have increased feelings of worthiness and belonging and develop emotional intelligence that lasts well into adulthood.  Children who see their parents cooperate, establish a life-long pattern of healthy interpersonal and conflict resolution skills. 

Examples of parallel parenting guidelines can include but not limited to:

  1. Communication must be business-like and pertain to information relevant to the children’s well being. 
  2. Parents do not use their children as messengers in any way whatsoever.
  3. Parents adhere to the custody agreement, unless there is a written agreement.
  4. Parents do not share personal information with the other parent.
  5. Parents use a shared calendar and a communication app, for example, Our Family Wizard.

The key to successful co-parenting and parallel parenting after divorce is to keep it child-focused and to maintain a cordial relationship with your ex-spouse. Most importantly, parents want to show their children that they can work together for the children’s benefit and longterm well-being. 

Please see resources page for more information and guides for divorcing parents.

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