Co-parenting is just not working for me. Do I have other options?

Many would say co-parenting is the ideal arrangement for raising kids after divorce. But co-parenting may not work out for some families. Parents might have too much ongoing hostility to exercise the significant level of cooperation co-parenting requires or there may be geographic, financial or other logistical barriers to co-parenting.

When co-parenting is not feasible for parents, they should neither resort to acting in petty or vengeful ways nor do they need to rush back to court to relitigate their child custody issues. Instead, they can try an alternative option for parenting after a divorce: parallel parenting.

What is parallel parenting?

Parallel parenting is a way parents can work both together and separately to raise their child after divorce. Parents work together to the extent it takes to execute a parenting plan and to communicate essential information about the child.

Parents who choose parallel parenting will execute a detailed written parenting plan that states exactly who has the child when, how key decisions regarding the child’s care will be made and how child custody exchanges will operate.

With a parenting plan in place, communication between parents is limited. This communication need not be face to face. Instead, parents can text, email or even keep a written journal they exchange between them to communicate key information about their child’s care. Other than that, they need not jointly attend events or have deep discussions about parenting.

Parallel parenting allows parents to raise their child as they see fit. They make their own daily childcare decisions during their parenting time, such as when the child will go to bed and what the child will eat for dinner. They will be responsible for transporting their child to school, activities and other places the child needs to be.

The drawbacks of parallel parenting

Parallel parenting, like co-parenting, involves a certain level of cooperation and respect. Parents cannot try to control what each other does during their respective parenting time nor can they intrude upon each other’s parenting time. Parallel parenting only works when parents follow their parenting plan to a tee and otherwise respect each other’s boundaries.

In addition, a child can experience confusion when their parents have very different rules in their respective households. Sometimes these rules need to be agreed upon in the parenting plan, which requires further compromise.

Still, when parents need to put distance between them post-divorce or otherwise cannot make true co-parenting work, parallel parenting might be a better option for them than trying to re-litigate child custody issues.

Constant litigation is hard on parents and distressing for a child who is depending on their parents to provide stability and support during a challenging time. Thus, it is good to know that co-parenting is not the only child custody arrangement from which to choose.