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Should you consider parallel parenting?

There's been a cultural shift in the nation's family courts toward "co-parenting" after divorce -- where both parents continue to have roughly equal responsibility for their children's upbringing -- instead of one parent having primary custody. This has brought about a greater need for cooperation between divorced parents.

For the most part, that's a good thing. However, when a divorce is particularly acrimonious, it's often better for divorced parents to consider a parallel parenting model.

What is parallel parenting?

Parallel parenting is a way of co-parenting while still maintaining an enforced distance from your ex-spouse. It's often the single best way to handle things when a relationship is so toxic that ex-spouses cannot communicate in a civil manner.

How does parallel parenting work?

It facilitates communication while still reducing the possibility of negative -- and overtly hostile -- interactions in the child's presence.

The basic rules of parallel parenting include the following:

  • All communication between the parents must be in writing.
  • All communication must be business-like and avoid personal comments.
  • Communications are to focus exclusively on parenting issues, like discussing your child's health, school schedule, report card, etc.
  • No changes are allowed to any schedule unless it is communicated in advance and agreed upon in writing.
  • Schedules are conveyed entirely in writing (or through electronic calendars).
  • The child is never to be used as a go-between for messages.
  • No personal information that isn't relevant to the child's well-being is ever shared between the child's parents.

In other words, communication is always "strictly business" and strictly limited in nature.

What does parallel parenting accomplish?

It minimizes the chances for hostile interactions in front of the child and allows both parents to take a step back from their conflicts with each other. That way, they can focus on their child's needs and work together without actually engaging with each other.

While a cooperative model is always ideal, real life doesn't always work out in ideal ways -- particularly where child custody matters are concerned. If you and your ex are finding it difficult to stay civil, consider parallel parenting as an option.

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