What’s the Difference Between Co-Parenting and Parallel Parenting?

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Going through a divorce or separating from your partner is hard enough, but it can be even more complex and emotionally draining when children are involved. While some couples never have to speak with each other again once their marriage is dissolved or their partnership ends, those who share children must usually have an ongoing relationship until the child reaches the age of 18. Although co-parenting is the ideal scenario when couples part ways who share children together, parallel parenting can come into play when parents are not able to work together.

What is Co-Parenting?

Co-parenting is an arrangement entered into by parents after a divorce in which they both share responsibility for the children and participate in their upbringing. However, a co-parenting arrangement can also be utilized in situations where the child’s parents were never married. Importantly, co-parenting emphasizes respect, cooperation, and flexibility between the parties. This situation works best when parents are amicable, are able to communicate, and they can put their differences aside for the sake of their children.

There are numerous benefits for both children and parents that come with co-parenting, including:

  • Stability and consistency for the children
  • Reducing stress for both the children and parents
  • Helping children build and maintain strong parental relationships
  • Allowing parents to participate more in their children’s lives
  • Improving communication between parents

Agreeing to co-parent with your former spouse can ensure your children’s needs are put first and foremost. Significantly, when children observe their parents communicate in a healthy way and resolve their conflicts effectively, they will learn valuable lessons about cooperation and compromise that they carry with them into adulthood.

What is Parallel Parenting?

Parallel parenting is a method used in high-conflict situations in which parents are unable to communicate with each other. It can be used as a temporary or long-term option and allows parents to share information about their children while interacting as little as possible. Instead of directly speaking with one another, parents can use email, text, a parenting app, or even a “parent communication notebook” that is passed between them. Although contact is limited, each parent must document the child’s daily activities to ensure both parents are kept informed.

Similar to co-parenting, parallel parenting can be implemented in cases involving divorce, or when the parents were never married. In the right situation, there can be many benefits to parallel parenting, including:

  • Reducing stress for both the parents and children
  • Reducing the amount of conflict
  • More predictability when communicating
  • Giving each parent the space they need to heal from divorce
  • Allowing both parents to foster a relationship with the child, despite their conflicts with one another

In a parallel parenting situation, parents usually do not attend the same functions or events. Each parent cares for and spends time with the child independent of the other. But while this method of parenting can be highly effective for parents who cannot communicate in a respectful manner, it’s crucial to understand that children should never be used as messengers.

Creating a Parenting Plan That’s Right for Your Situation

Raising a child with your former spouse or partner can be challenging. But by taking a parenting approach that works for your situation, it isn’t impossible. One of the best ways to help ensure your children adjust well is when parenting responsibilities are clearly explained with a detailed parenting plan.

A parenting plan should include details regarding the child’s education and religious upbringing, extra-curricular activities, transportation arrangements, medical appointments, and procedures for resolving disputes or making changes to the agreement. Information regarding parenting time schedules, and where the children will spend holidays and vacations should also be specified. Other factors to consider when creating a parenting plan include rules for communication with the child when they are with their other parent and between co-parents.

Whether you and your former spouse will be taking a co-parenting or parallel parenting approach, it’s essential to work with a family law attorney who can assist you with drafting a parenting plan that reflects your situation — and ensures your child’s needs are met. However, it’s important to understand that in order to be legally enforceable, the parenting plan to which you and your former spouse have agreed must be approved by the court and signed by a judge. In the event spouses cannot reach a resolution regarding custody matters between themselves, a judge will determine the outcome.

Contact an Experienced Pennsylvania Family Law Attorney

Sharing parenting responsibilities with a former spouse or partner can be difficult. It’s crucial to implement a parenting plan that will work best for your specific circumstances. At Berman & Associates, our skilled Pennsylvania family law attorneys are committed to assisting clients with creating detailed parenting plans and protecting their interests. We welcome you to contact us today to schedule a consultation at our Media office.

Categories: Child Custody