Parallel Parenting: How it Works

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Parallel parenting is a strategy for divorced or separated parents who are unable to cooperate to raise their children in a healthy environment. The hurt, anger, resentment, or other emotions from their relationship can mean that they are unable to communicate without hostility. Parallel parenting is for parents who, in some cases, can't be in the same room together or even hear each other's voices without conflict.
Parallel parenting could also be put in place when there is a history of abuse that means co-parents are living with a no-contact order or doing it for safety purposes.
This type of parenting can be temporary or permanent, and for some families it is the best solution that allows the children to have stable, healthy relationships with both parents.

How It Works

According to Psychology Today, parallel parenting is defined as "an arrangement in which divorced parents are able to co-parent by means of disengaging from each other, and having limited direct contact, in situations where they have demonstrated that they are unable to communicate with each other in a respectful manner."
Each parent is in charge of the custodial or day-to-day care and control of the children when they are under that parent's care, but everything is separate and it's all business.
Communication is strictly limited to emergencies or other pressing issues that need it. There are no joint holiday or birthday celebrations and no joint attendance at school meetings, doctor appointments, or soccer games.

In addition, parallel parenting means that neither parent gets to have a say on how the other parent chooses to manage parenting responsibilities (as long as the well-being of the children is not in jeopardy).

Strategies for Success

Unlike parenting plans that outline how parents will share time with their children, parallel parenting plans minimize the interaction between the two parents as much as possible. Successful plans are straightforward and thorough, nothing is assumed, and there is no room for interpretation.
For example, your plan can't just say, "Parent 1 has custody of the children every other weekend starting on Fridays after school through Sunday evenings." Instead, it must include:
  • A fixed calendar of specific visitation dates
  • Exact start and end times
  • Predefined pick-up and drop-off locations
  • The name of the person responsible for transporting the children
It's also essential to have contingency plans for handling situations such as missed visitations, actions that will be taken when one parent denies parenting time to the other. Other forward-thinking plans may include whether or not the on-duty parent or both parents may attend the child's events.

Tips and Resources for Success

The following are some important tips and resources for minimizing engagement and maximizing success in a parallel parenting arrangement:
  • Consult with a mediator when there are conflicts about issues not specified by the parenting plan. In many cases, courts assign parent coordinators and often provide search directories of mediators serving their areas. Other online directories, such as and AAA, exist to help parents find and contact appropriate mediators in their areas for their specific cases. 
  • Identify neutral or public places for pick-up and drop-off locations, such as schools, restaurant parking lots, or in front of a local police station – preferably away from parents' homes.
  • Share your parallel parenting agreement with a reliable family member or friend. In hostile situations, it's important to have the support of someone you can trust.


Finally, choose communication channels appropriate to your arrangement. For example, if you must discuss a last-minute schedule change, a text or email rather than risk an emotionally charged conversation in front of the kids.
Some parenting plans include the use of a communication book that parents pass back and forth with the children.
Platforms such as Talking Parents keep parents connected without face-to-face meetings or direct conversations. Parents can create and send stamp-dated messages, including file attachments, via email and text messaging, share calendars, and coordinate events and personal journals for keeping notes. The app also allows parents to store and share images and documents, such as court papers, school files, doctors' appointments, and school permission slips. Everything within Talking Parents is secure and unalterable and can be ordered in the form of a PDF or certified printed Record.
Every parenting plan, even a parallel parenting plan, will need to be revisited periodically. For some parents, parallel parenting may be a temporary solution or a step to eventual co-parenting when the pains of the relationship begin to subside.

TalkingParents blogs are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a qualified attorney regarding legal matters.

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