Parallel co-parenting developed as a way for parents – particularly those in high-conflict divorces – to focus their energy on raising their child by disengaging from problematic communication with their ex-spouse.
This does not require active cooperation and is a valuable model to consider if you feel that continued communication with your co-parent will be toxic for you and your ability to parent.
Parallel co-parenting minimizes conflict while maximizing the involvement that each parent has in their child’s life. Parents disengage from their co-parent and the pattern of destructive communication. Children benefit because they are removed from being in the middle of their parent’s fights. This model assumes that both parents are safe and healthy with the children.
Tips for Making Parallel Co-Parenting Work
Parents communicate to a minimal extent and in neutral ways for anything except emergencies. All communication is child-centered. Here are some specific tips for making this work during and after a high-conflict divorce:
- Use a website (such as OurFamilyWizard.com) or parenting notebook for communication. Write down all relevant communications about your child’s visit (bedtime, meals, homework, behavior, strategies that worked to soothe your child). It should summarize all the events, including emotional and behavioral, for the other parent.
- Communication should maintain a business-like, respectful tone. It should focus only on the child’s needs. The interactions should utilize the “BIFF response method“: Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm.
- Unscheduled, verbal communication should be reserved for emergencies only.
- Use email to communicate non-urgent issues and limit these emails to two times or less per month. Also, limit them to one topic.
- For any issues or disagreements, work with a third party. This should be a neutral person, such as a mediator or therapist.
- Transfer of children should occur at a neutral location, such as the school, a library, or a restaurant.
- Each household operates independently.
- Use a “Mom’s house” and “Dad’s house” mantra. The parent in that house determines the rules, chores, routines, and homework. Using this phrase also helps prevent kids from playing parents against each other.
- Avoid being together at child-related events, such as sporting events or school concerts. Take turns attending.
Parallel Co-Parenting Requires a Highly Specific Parenting Plan in Cases of High-Conflict Divorce
This co-parenting model needs a highly specific parenting plan in order to minimize communication. Mediation and collaborative divorce are processes you can consider that will allow you to craft a highly specific parenting plan that meets the needs of your individual children.
After a divorce, it’s important that both parents remain involved in the life of their children regardless of their ability to work with each other. Parallel co-parenting is designed to allow both parents to be very involved in their children’s lives without being involved in each other’s lives.
Some parents may find that after years of practicing parallel co-parenting, they can move on to a more cooperative approach; other some parents stick with this model for the long term because it minimizes the triggers for conflict.