What To Know About Parallel Parenting After Divorce
March 13, 2023

You vowed to be together for life. However, marriages don’t always go as planned.

Divorce can be difficult, especially when there are children involved. It’s important to learn how to co-parent and figure out how to move forward in a way that’s in your children’s best interest.

For many, parallel parenting is the way to go. This option allows parents to interact as minimally as possible with each other. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Parallel Parenting and How Does it Work?

Parallel parenting is a structured approach that allows divorced or separated parents to co-parent by disengaging from each other while maintaining strong, healthy, and independent relationships with their children. This method is particularly beneficial in high-conflict situations where interactions between parents can lead to stress and discomfort for both the children and the parents themselves.

Here’s a breakdown of how parallel parenting works, providing families with the necessary framework to support their children’s needs effectively.

Developing a Comprehensive Parenting Plan

Foundation of Parallel Parenting

The success of parallel parenting largely hinges on a detailed and well-structured parenting plan crafted at the outset. This plan acts as a roadmap for parenting, covering all conceivable aspects of the child’s upbringing to minimize the need for direct communication between the parents.

Components of the Parenting Plan

  • Formal Custody Arrangements and Schedules: Clearly defined schedules specifying when the child will be with each parent, including weekday, weekend, and holiday schedules.
  • Communication Protocols: Guidelines for how parents will communicate (often limited to written forms like emails or through a designated app), focusing on the child’s well-being and logistical necessities only.
  • Decision-Making Processes: Outlined processes for making decisions about the child’s education, healthcare, and extracurricular activities, typically requiring minimal interaction.
  • Medical and Emergency Plans: Agreements on handling medical decisions, emergency contact information, and procedures for urgent situations.
  • Rules on Upbringing: Agreed-upon guidelines on significant issues that affect both households, such as internet use, social activities, and other lifestyle rules.
  • Consequences for Non-Compliance: Clearly stated repercussions for not adhering to the terms of the parenting plan to ensure accountability.

Creating this plan may involve mediators or family law attorneys to ensure that all aspects are fair and legally binding, reflecting the best interests of the child.

Limited and Structured Communication

In parallel parenting, communication between parents is deliberately restricted to reduce conflict and emotional strain. The nature of communication is strictly business-like, focusing solely on the child’s needs and logistical arrangements.

Methods of Communication May Include:

  • Monthly or weekly summaries via email, providing updates on the child’s health, educational progress, and any significant events.
  • A shared journal or digital log used during exchanges, detailing relevant information about the child’s activities and any notable issues.
  • Using communication tools designed for divorced or separated parents, which can help document interactions and maintain necessary boundaries.

Mutual Respect for Parental Autonomy

A crucial aspect of parallel parenting is the mutual respect for the autonomy of each parent during their designated parenting time. Each parent agrees to respect the other’s decisions regarding the child’s day-to-day life, as long as they align with the agreed-upon guidelines and do not endanger the child.

Safeguarding the Child from Conflict

The primary goal of parallel parenting is to shield the child from any parental conflict. The structured nature of this arrangement helps ensure that the child does not witness arguments or negative interactions, which research shows can lead to psychological and emotional issues in children.

Co-parenting Vs. Parallel Parenting

Co-parenting is where you and your ex can work together to raise your child without toxicity. Both homes have similar plans and rules. You can discuss issues, find solutions together, and attend school events and extracurricular activities.

Co-parenting involves a lot of communication and the ability to work together in a healthy manner.

In parallel parenting, each parent has specific responsibilities, but they communicate as little as possible. Unlike co-parenting, parents take turns attending their child’s appointments and events. Responsibilities and exact details will depend on the parenting plan.

When To Choose Parallel Parenting

Parents that don’t have a healthy relationship with one another often opt for parallel parenting. It means their child or children won’t be exposed to their unhealthy relationship.

This parenting method should be considered when there’s high conflict between both parents, and the child runs the risk of being exposed to it.

The Benefits of Parallel Parenting

Parallel parenting allows children to have a relationship with both parents while protecting them from parental conflict. It prevents children from being in the middle of disputes or feeling that they’re the reason their parents can’t get along.

Perhaps most importantly, this method allows both parents to be involved in their child’s lives. A few benefits for the children involved include:

  • Fewer behavioral problems
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Better performance at school
  • Fewer emotional problems

What Your Parenting Plan Should Include

The goal of parallel parenting is to limit communication between parents. To ensure this happens, the parenting plan in place needs to be as detailed as possible.

Some parents may agree on major decisions like religion, school, healthcare providers, and extracurricular activities and leave the rest to the parent exercising their parenting time. Others may assign a certain area to each parent and have them responsible for making those decisions.

Nonetheless, these plans should include the following:

  • Each parent’s parenting time
  • A specific exchange that includes the time and place
  • Holiday and vacation schedules
  • How decisions will be made regarding school, activities, etc.
  • Rules on being late, canceling, or rescheduling
  • Parental communication, often through a third party or communication app

A legal representative will ensure all important elements are covered in your parallel parenting plan to minimize conflict for the long term.

Hire a Divorce Attorney in Harrisburg, PA

Parallel parenting is an effective solution when co-parenting isn’t an option. It means each parent will fulfill their parental responsibilities and be an active participant in their child’s life.

If you’re unsure whether this is the right solution for you and your family, reach out to Daley Zucker’s divorce attorneys in Harrisburg, PA, for help.

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