What is Parallel Parenting?

If your divorce case involves minor children, you may encounter the phrase “parallel parenting” somewhere along the way. Parallel parenting is a parental responsibility arrangement (previously called “custody agreement”) in which divorced parents co-parent by disengaging from each other and having limited contact when they are unable to communicate in a respectful manner. They parent in parallel lines, both focused on the child but never intersecting one other. Parallel parenting is often the only way to co-parent when parents are not amiable with one another after a divorce.

Focus on What Matters Most – The Children

Parallel parenting works by parents disengaging from one another but remaining fully connected to children. Parents in these situations often share joint parental responsibilities in a divorce, although the types of responsibilities each spouse has may vary. For example, one parent may have full authority over big decisions such as where a child goes to school, while the other has more control over day-to-day parenting. In most parallel parenting situations, however, parents both agree on major life decisions regarding a child’s upbringing but decide separately about day-to-day activities and routines.

Parallel parenting lets a child remain in communication and contact with both parents without suffering from parents yelling or arguing with one another. Over time, parallel parenting allows the dust to settle between parents. Eventually, parents can achieve cooperative parenting despite a divorce. The only way parallel parenting works successfully is if both parents stick to their end of the original agreement. Parallel parenting lets parents that do not get along with each other avoid hostilities and focus instead on the children.

Benefits of Parallel Parenting

Parallel parenting is often better for a child’s mental and emotional wellbeing than the alternatives – separation from one parent or being around fighting parents all the time. It protects children from parental conflict and prevents them from ending up in the middle of a parental fight. Parallel parenting eliminates children from direct exposure to conflict, helping them cope with the divorce and develop healthily into young adulthood. This style of parenting also makes it clear to the child that both parents are still equally important regardless of hostility between them.

According to the Judicial Branch of California, children benefit when parents can avoid conflict, physical violence, and emotional abuse. They also benefit from predictable routines. Parallel parenting means parents establish a business-like relationship, where their main goal is to raise a child. Parents don’t let any hostilities or disputes between each other get in the way of their parenting. This open, easy method of communication facilitates problem solving and avoids arguments that can harm a child.

Should You Try Parallel Parenting?

If you and your spouse are struggling to come up with a parental responsibility arrangement and can’t stop arguing long enough to truly focus on your child or children, you may want to consider the parallel parenting technique. Try putting aside your personal problems with your soon-to-be-ex spouse and instead focus entirely on parenting. Only interact with your spouse if you absolutely must – at least in the beginning. Eventually you may be able to speak with your spouse without getting into an argument.

Parallel parenting may not be right for high conflict couples, since each parent still must agree on parenting styles and parental responsibilities. However, it can be ideal for couples that wish to maintain their relationships with children. It is up to you and your spouse whether parallel parenting sounds like an agreement you can manage for the best interests of your children. For more information about parental responsibility agreements in California, contact a family law attorney.