What is Parallel Parenting?

When parents split up and determine their custody roles, they often go one of two ways. Either they can learn to get along, or they cannot let their past stop them from fighting. It’s essential to learn how to parent with your ex in order to protect your children’s best interests. There are two methods of parenting that are common after a divorce -- co-parenting and parallel parenting.

Co-Parenting vs. Parallel Parenting

Co-parenting occurs when parents can work together to find resolutions to problems that are in the best interest of their child. Typically, children will live in both homes, and parents have no problems going to events and other functions for their child at the same time. Any interactions between each parent is cordial. If there are any problems that arise, co-parents can effectively navigate their issues to find a solution without things getting to tense.

Parallel parenting, on the other hand, occurs when parents, that may or may not share custody, cannot interact with each other, or solve problems without fighting. In this situation, parents keep all custody matters separate. For events, doctor’s appointments, activities, etc. only one parent will attend. Direct contact is limited, and often through other methods like texting, email, or custody sharing apps. Essentially, parallel parenting aims to lay out clear and direct guidelines and boundaries for both parents.

In most parallel parenting plans, one parent is the established primary custodian because the parents can have difficulties remaining neutral while the children are going between homes. Often there is high conflict among the parents, which can lead to negative consequences to the child both emotionally and psychologically.

How to Parallel Parent

While co-parenting is typically the most beneficial for children of divorce, parallel parenting can be done effectively to ensure the best for the child.

To make parallel parenting as successful as possible, parents should do the following:

  • Keep communication between parents to a minimum. Have a system in place of how to communicate with each other and stick with that. This could be via email, text, or a co-parenting app. All communication should be brief and to the point and limited to only sharing details about custody matters unless there is an emergency.
  • Parents should not attend child-related functions or activities together. If parents cannot be cordial together, it’s best for the child if either one parent doesn’t attend, or if both do then they do not sit near each other nor interact with each other. Parents should reach out to schools and programs to let them know when important functions are happening, and not rely on the other parent to share this information.
  • Don’t make drop off and pick up times difficult. During pick up and drop off times, one parent should wait in the car while the child goes to meet the other parent. By limiting the amount of contact with each other, the less likely there will be conflict for either party.

Stay in the loop. Parents in a parallel parenting situation should keep in touch with important adult-figures in their child’s life like teachers, doctors, therapists, and anyone else that the child has frequent contact with. This helps parents better understand how their child is coping with the situation.

It’s not uncommon for parents with joint custody to implement characteristics of both co-parenting and parallel parenting. Sometimes parents can get along enough to communicate with each other without fighting but struggle when they are in the same room together. There isn’t one specific way that is correct to parent. The most important thing that parents can do is put their child’s needs and happiness above everything else.

If you are in the middle of a custody battle and need help protecting your parental rights, call Parchman Law Group P.L.L.C. at (713) 364-0777 to discuss your case with a skilled Woodlands child custody attorney.