How is parallel parenting different from co-parenting?

Child Custody & Support
How is parallel parenting different from co-parenting?

Going through a divorce often brings out the worst in people, and some spouses who share children may go through even greater conflict while settling child custody and child support issues. In a move to reduce conflict between divorced parents, some have turned to parallel parenting instead of co-parenting.

What is parallel parenting?

Parallel parenting allows divorced parents to have limited direct contact. With this arrangement, one parent may take over decision-making when it comes to education while the other handles medical decisions. Or they agree as part of their divorce to a detailed parenting plan and stick to it as much as possible.

For example, the parenting plan can specify:

  • an exact custody schedule for the children for the year
  • that the parents will raise the children Baptist rather than Catholic
  • that the children will attend public school
  • that the children will participate in no more than three after-school activities at a set budget

This lessens the amount parents need to communicate about their children. Parents who practice parallel parenting often agree to communicate only via email to reduce tension and avoid having their children experience their parents in conflict.

Parallel parenting also works more like a business arrangement. Parents don’t interact over smaller issues and don’t try to control when a child’s bedtime is, what they eat or what they do when they are at the other parent’s house. Parents who practice parallel parenting must let go – to trust that their ex will care for their child well without their interference.

The differences between parallel parenting and co-parenting

Co-parenting is more of a direct relationship, where divorced parents often consult each other about all kinds of decisions regarding their children. They often make sure the other parent has given an OK before letting their child sleep over at a friend’s house, sign up for a new activity or get a math tutor.

With parallel parenting, the goal is to give divorced parents space, so maybe eventually they can co-parent without lots of conflict. In time, the tension likely will dissipate and they can take a more cooperative role in raising their children.