If you have shared child custody with an ex, you probably know the term “co-parenting.” Co-parenting is almost always recommended by the Courts as being in the best interests of the minor child. However, what if your ex is a narcissist or otherwise emotionally abusive? What if despite your best efforts to co-parent with your ex, high conflict typically erupts? Does your ex care more about control than about your shared child? Is your child being put in the middle of fights between you and your ex? The answer may be a parallel parenting plan. This may seem counter-intuitive, but the idea is to communicate as little as possible. If you are interested in trying something new, parallel parenting might be right for you:
According to an article by Psychology Today, “parallel parenting” is as “an arrangement in which divorced parents are able to co-parent by means of disengaging from each other.” Parents can create a plan where major choices are agreed to (like school choice or medical decisions), but each parent is in charge of day-to-day parenting and logistics of the routine. The parents do not communicate at drop offs/pick ups, and only communicate by email.
While parallel parenting is a form of co-parenting, traditionally the term “co-parenting” means mutual co-parenting. Mutual co-parenting can involve a lot more direct contact between parents to make decisions for their child. In a co-parenting relationship, the parents often directly convey important information personally to the other parent. The parents may not like each other very much, but they are able to put their personal feelings aside for the sake of the child.
This is different than parallel parenting where everything is separate. Parallel parents don’t attend extracurricular activities, doctor’s appointments, or school meetings together. Communication is kept to a bare minimum, and occurs only when necessary.
Parallel parenting is great for minimizing conflict between parties. It allows parents to concentrate on the child and shield them from endless fighting and litigation.
Because email is the preferred communication, conversations are not in real time and it leaves time to cool off before sending a hostile email. Emails are also good as a form of proof, whether or not used for court; hopefully the writer keeps in mind the judge might see it and is, therefore, on their best behavior.
For parallel parenting to work, you have to be willing to trust that your ex is going to parent differently, but adequately during their parenting time. While you may prefer your child has organic produce at every meal, you have to trust that during your ex’s time, your child may be eating fast food, but will still be safe.
There also has to be a really comprehensive talk prior to setting up the plan so as to minimize future communication. This talk would cover pick up/ drop off procedures, major life decisions and how t resolve disagreements. Unfortunately for parents already in high conflict, this might be a difficult task. Rest assured, if you are in Pima County, there is free mediation at the Pima County conciliation court. Read more about that in our article, Conciliation Court and You.
No! It can be temporary- sometimes parallel parenting is perfect for getting through a period of high conflict. With enough practice parallel parenting, some parents find they can eventually co-parent amicably and healthily.