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Parallel parenting: A viable solution in high-conflict divorce?

Most divorce courts favor joint custody arrangements. A child's continued engagement with both parents has been proven to be most beneficial in the majority of child custody cases.

However, if conditions suggest there is no chance of cooperation between the two parents, parallel parenting might be an option.

Parenting in parallel

The premise of parallel co-parenting is that parents only engage with the child and not with one another. Despite the relational dysfunction with one another, this model says parents are still capable of parenting in a way that is fully engaged with their child.

Key plan elements

Experts generally agree that the key to forming a workable parallel parenting plan is the parents' desire to minimize children's exposure to angry parental exchanges. Elements of a plan might include:

  • Restricting forms of inter-parent communication: Face-to-face encounters might be banned. Instead of phone calls, communication by letter, email or fax might work. Communicating through a willing third party (possibly court appointed) could be an option. Another might be to employ one of the various online co-parenting applications that now exist.
  • A determination to separate decision-making responsibility: One parent might make education-related decisions while the other deals with medical care issues.
  • Clear plans on day-to-day functioning: These need to be very specific. And the parents should acknowledge from the outset that modifications may be required as children age and needs change.

Whatever shape the plan takes, experts agree it needs to be specific.

One other thing experts note about parallel parenting is that it may provide an environment in which the parents eventually overcome their hostilities. That's a foundation from which a more cooperative parenting plan can be crafted.

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