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Co-Parenting vs. Parallel Parenting

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There’s been a wave of support for so-called “co-parenting” arrangements for divorced or otherwise separated parents of shared children. Co-parenting is a collaborative approach to divorced parenting, and it does carry many benefits for both the children and the parents. Depending upon the nature of your relationship with your ex, however, a co-parenting arrangement might not be ideal, or even feasible. When the relationship between co-parents is especially hostile or volatile, such that co-parenting is not a realistic option, parallel parenting might better serve the interests of the parents and their shared kids. Read on to learn about the difference between co-parenting and parallel parenting and when each approach may be optimal. If you are negotiating a child custody arrangement or fielding any other sort of child custody dispute, reach out to an experienced New Jersey child custody attorney for dedicated advice and representation.

What is Co-Parenting?

A co-parenting arrangement is a collaborative parenting arrangement in which both parents work together to raise the children even after separation or divorce. In co-parenting, the two parents will share open communication, make decisions about child-rearing together, and might even attend family events together. The parents may agree to common rules and agreements concerning how the children will be raised, such as setting the same dietary restrictions or curfews. The parents will work together to resolve any issues concerning their children, including discipline, scheduling concerns, education, after-school activities, and other matters.

Co-parenting works when the parents are able to be cordial with one another; in the ideal setting, co-parents would remain friends even after divorce. Co-parenting reduces conflict, increases stability and consistency for the benefit of the children, encourages optimal communication between co-parents, and demonstrates that both parents wish the child to have a positive relationship with the other parent. Children in a successful co-parenting arrangement are less likely to feel isolated and less likely to feel that they need to take sides between parents, and it reduces the risk that they will be forced to “grow up too soon” and act as a mediator between parental fights.

What is Parallel Parenting?

Co-parenting only works when the two parents can work together in a polite or friendly manner. Both parents must be willing to compromise, they must be flexible, and they must have patience for one another and the situation. The parents must be able to set aside any hard feelings they may have about their relationship and separation. In many divorces, it is simply unrealistic to assume that the two parties can work together as friends and partners. Divorce is challenging, complex, and may trigger feelings of resentment that can last for years. However, just because two parents cannot reconcile their differences does not mean they cannot reach a parenting arrangement that benefits their children.

A parallel parenting arrangement operates to minimize the contact between the two parents. Each parent is allowed to craft their own approach to parenting, setting their own day-to-day rules regarding curfews, discipline, meals, and other matters. The parents will likely not attend family functions together and will likely communicate only where necessary, such as when there are alterations to the set schedule or there is a medical concern. Communication might occur only through text, emails, or a parenting app, rather than via phone or in person.

Parallel parenting allows high-conflict parents to avoid interacting with one another personally while still maintaining their parental responsibilities. Parallel parenting should not involve bad-mouthing the other parent; instead, each parent simply acts on their own and interacts with the other parent only where necessary. Parallel parenting can help to set healthy boundaries between the parents, allowing each to feel like a full parent for their child rather than feeling the need to fight for their child’s affections or schedule. If the parents are high-conflict, limiting interactions will reduce arguments and avoid heated interactions that can cause stress or anxiety for the children. The parents can set rules regarding communication, scheduling, and how to request alterations to the schedule.

Parallel parenting is not necessarily “worse” than co-parenting. It’s simply a different arrangement that accounts for the reality of the relationship between the two parents. When determining the type of parenting relationship that serves your children and yourself best, it’s important to look at the reality of your relationship with your ex. Trying to force a co-parenting relationship when the parties simply cannot get along is likely to make things worse for everyone. Discuss your options with your family law attorney, your counselor, and other people in your life to determine what makes the most sense with your family.

Call an Experienced New Jersey Custody and Parental Rights Attorney

If you’re considering divorce or you need assistance with New Jersey family law issues involving parental rights, child custody, equitable division of property, alimony/spousal support, child support, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the skilled and passionate Union family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro for a consultation.

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