by Attorney Tana Landau

Most people are familiar with the term co-parenting. But have you ever heard of parallel parenting? In an ideal divorce, parents would separate but be capable of co-parenting their children. Unfortunately, all too often this is not the case as one parent either refuses to do so or is caught up emotionally in the negative feelings they are harboring toward the other parent.

Parallel parenting is a method utilized in situations where traditional co-parenting will not work. It minimizes contact between parents and allows them to parent while being disengaged from each other. The parents make the joint decision to not communicate about most day-to-day custodial decisions while the children are under either parent’s care.

Instead, each parent has control over their respective parenting responsibilities during their parenting time. Parallel parenting is essentially an alternative to traditional co-parenting that can be utilized in high conflict custody matters.

In a traditional co-parenting situation, the parents may consult each other on topics like what extra-curricular to enroll their child in, what days it occurs, who can take the child on each day, what the cost-splitting will look like etc. In a parallel parenting scenario, a parent would enroll the child in an activity on their time. No discussion with the other parent if it did not interfere with their time or require the other parent to pay for it. They would simply just inform them that they were enrolled. Similarly, the other parent would be in control of the activities the child participates in on their time.

Co-parenting can be viewed as collaborative efforts of parents who live apart that implies a certain level of cooperation in the common and everyday tasks of raising their child. Parallel parenting is where parents operate completely independent of each other while avoiding any discussion and minimizing communication. While parallel parenting minimizes communications, it does not eliminate them. Typically, any communications are business-like. The goal of parallel parenting is simply to avoid conflict.

Parallel parenting may be useful in situations where one parent or both parents harbor resentment or ill feelings toward the other which affect their ability to co-parent and respect the other parent, where simple interactions like exchanges or attending events together lead to conflict, where communications between the parties often escalate into confrontations, or where the parties cannot agree on any aspects of their parenting styles.