Co-Parenting vs. Parallel Parenting: Navigating Custody After Divorce
December 11, 2023
When an individual makes the decision to move forward with ending their marriage, they initiate a challenging process of separating two lives which were intricately woven together for a significant period of time. While they may eventually have to consider things like who will keep living in the house, how their credit card debt will be divided, or how they will break the news to friends and family, those issues get put on the backburner a lot of the time when the couple shares children.
It’s human nature to consider our kids above all else, and especially when we want to protect them from the heartbreak that can come from their parents’ divorce. So, if your immediate concerns are centered around what parenting will look like for you once the ink is dry on your final signature, you’re not alone. However, we hope we can shed some light – and even some optimism – on what a future where you’re no longer parenting as a unit could look like.
In this blog, we’ll be going into detail of two popular post-divorce parenting styles: co-parenting and parallel parenting. You’ll learn what each looks like, what benefits they offer to both you and your children, as well as the possible drawbacks of implementing them. In that way, you can be informed and empowered enough to move forward with your parenting journey after divorce.
Co-Parenting: The Collaborative Approach
Co-parenting, or collaborative parenting, is just what it sounds like: both parents work together to make the decisions which affect their shared childrens’ upbringing, whether that be pertaining to their education, healthcare, social activities, religion, or other central factors. Both parents share an active role in the lives of their children, and generally remain committed to maintaining a positive relationship with each other for their benefit. A detailed parenting plan, which both parents have agreed upon, often breaks down the logistics of how co-parenting will progress. This approach is also dependent upon the ongoing communication, cooperation, flexibility, and compromise of each parent.
Co-parenting is often considered the next best option if the family can no longer be kept together. It offers stability for children as they move between the care of each parent and their household, and also models how romantic relationships can develop into healthy, functional platonic ones. This parenting style has also been shown to reduce a child’s stress level while providing a sense of comfort and security.
Similarly, many parents find co-parenting beneficial and stress-reducing, as well. This partnership allows them to rely on each other to make important decisions and help with the heavy-lifting involved with raising children.
While co-parenting works for millions of American families, there are a few drawbacks to this parenting style, such as differing philosophies or values, and the emotional strain that sometimes comes along with consistent contact with a former romantic partner. However, many parents are still able to find the right balance, especially with the aid of an experienced family attorney who can mediate the conversation, if needed.
Parallel Parenting: When The Collaborative Approach Isn’t An Option
While some couples split up and remain amicable or even friendly with each other, others find it difficult to be in the same room with each other and do not want to have any contact. In these sorts of high-conflict situations, parallel parenting is usually the most positive option for minimizing further disputes.
In a parallel parenting approach, each parent has their own approach when the children are in their case, and often do not attend the same functions, appointments, or child-related events. Communication is limited to email, text messages, or messages in a co-parenting app such as OurFamilyWizard, 2houses, Cozi, or TalkingParents.
The main difference between parallel parenting and co-parenting is that two parents are able to maintain their shared parenting rights and responsibilities while disconnecting from each other personally. They must agree to make day-to-day decisions for their children independently, while critical issues – like education or healthcare – are communicated in a business-like manner and in writing.
Parallel parenting offers many benefits, such as limited conflict, reduced stress for both kids and parents, and a greater sense of confidence for parents making the decisions that affect their kids’ upbringing. However, it can cause a lack of consistency for them as they move between homes, and the limited communication might leave one or both parents feeling out-of-the-loop.
It’s Important To Be Realistic About What’s Working And What’s Not…
Just because you and your ex have some disagreements – or don’t even like each other! – it doesn’t mean that co-parenting isn’t an option for you; likewise, you may harbor no ill-will toward your former spouse but find no reason to continue a personal relationship with them, and favor the parallel parenting style more. No matter the circumstances, the most essential thing is for each parent to be on the same page. If one parent is trying to co-parent while the other is attempting to parallel parent, conflict will, inevitably, be created. So, ask yourself this:
What kind of communication do you and your ex seem to have the most: productive and calm, or emotionally-charged and unhelpful?
Do you and your ex generally agree on matters pertaining to your children?
Are you able to see each other in public or on special occasions without either of you causing problems?
Do you find it difficult to agree on, and follow through with, financial activities as they relate to your children? (i.e., exchanging money)
Do you prefer to handle your parenting responsibilities independently, or do you value the input and support of your co-parent?
The way you answer these questions should give you a pretty good idea of which path to choose moving forward. Whichever it may be, it is in your best interest to have it finalized on put on-record by a skilled family attorney who can help you craft the parenting plan which reflects your decision. That way, many of the issues that may arise in the future can be addressed, as well as the way in which they will be resolved.
But It’s Also Important To Put Your Kids First.
They’re watching this all play out, and they’re absorbing all of the good and all of the bad. This isn’t to say you won’t have your fair share of ups and downs, no matter what conditions you parent under. Your divorce likely caused your children to experience a significant amount of emotional distress, but that doesn’t have to be the norm. Regardless of whether you choose to adopt co-parenting or parallel parenting, placing the well-being of your kids at the forefront will ensure that you each foster a stable and nurturing environment for them to grow, and lay the foundation for a harmonious post-divorce family life.
Bottom Line? There Is No “Right” Way To Parent Post-Divorce. There Is Only The Way That Is Right For You And Your Kids.
Hembree Bell Law Firm can help you navigate post-divorce parenting effectively, no matter how complex you believe your situation to be. We can help you understand your options and move forward toward your goals. Call today to schedule your free case evaluation and learn more about how we can serve you!