Learning to co-parent well together after a divorce takes time, even for the most cooperative of divorced couples. Learning to coordinate different homes and schedules is no easy feat.
For other divorced couples, reaching a “cooperative” situation may sound like a pipe dream. If this describes your current position, don’t be ashamed. Many divorces start out in an inharmonious state but become more cordial through the years.
For divorced parents who are currently unable to maintain a respectful tone around each other, less communication is better, and a parallel parenting style, rather than a co-parenting setup, is advised. After all, you do yourself, your ex-spouse, and children no favors by putting yourselves in volatile or argumentative situations. Less interaction between contentious parents protects everyone’s emotional well-being (especially the child’s), keeps stressful situations to a minimum, and allows for emotional healing between parents.
Parallel parenting allows for equal decision-making and custody of the children so that no parent gets completely disregarded. Additionally, children cope better after divorce when both parents are able to remain in the picture. This setup can even be a stepping stone into co-parenting once sentiments become less volatile.
Co-parents typically have more in-person interactions with each other. In this setup, parents are able to put differences aside and get along in front of their children. Co-parents typically agree on a parenting style and can discuss the common rules and boundaries they will have in place for their children despite being in different homes. Co-parents can come together for big occasions like birthdays, recitals, and graduations.
With parallel parenting, face-to-face interactions and phone calls rarely happen. Written communication is kept to a minimum, and only child-related information is discussed in order to keep the peace.
Often, a mediator, therapist, or another neutral third party is present for conversations or acts as the go-between. There are no discussions over coordinating parenting styles, rules, or boundaries. Parents handle daily child-related business independently in whatever manner they choose. Big occasions with kids are either celebrated separately or on alternating years (e.g., Mom gets Thanksgiving with the kids this year. Dad gets them the following year.).
A parallel parenting setup DOES NOT mean that you and your ex-spouse get to avoid all planning and wing it. The two of you must have a plan in place to prevent confusion and misunderstandings, which can lead to increased hostilities. The better you plan, the less interaction you will need moving forward, and the smoother shared custody will be.
Careful planning is going to require some additional communication, initially. Write your parenting plan down and share it through your legal advocate, an agreed-upon neutral third-party, email, or certified mail. Expect the other parent to want input, as well. There will need to be some back-and-forth between the two of you until a compromise is reached.
Here are just a few ideas of what to include in your parenting plan:
So, what is the best way to create your plan and share information without actually talking face-to-face?
Less contact is better for parallel parenting, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have absolutely no communication. To more easily share custody, you’ll need to exchange child-related information every so often.
Technology is the best way to share information with your parallel parent.
Of course, texting is a great way to communicate and share documentation, too. But, even better than that is an app for divorced parents. And there are so many great app options out there.
Why are apps better than texting?
The best ones for divorced parents tailor to shared parenting needs. These apps keep communication neutral and focused on child-related matters such as shared expenses and child support payments, schedules, extracurricular activities, medical appointments, insurance, and social security information, school reports and grades, and behavior notes. Some apps even let you upload pictures so that the other parent can have a peek into their children’s lives while not in their custody.
Your parenting plan is a great outline for how you and the other parent should carry on your “normal” business of raising your children apart. Life doesn’t always go according to plan, though. As a result, you, the other parent, and your parallel parenting outline need some flexibility.
Have a backup plan for when life doesn’t go according to schedule. Some scenarios to keep in mind are:
Agree on a plan that benefits the whole family. Maybe the other parent gets an extra day of custody to make up for a missed day? Perhaps the child can spend some time with the other parent’s extended family like a grandparent, aunt, or uncle?
This structure may not be suitable in situations of abuse or psychological disorders. Only you and trusted legal counsel or a therapist can decide if parallel parenting is a good fit for you and your situation. The best choice is an arrangement that keeps you and your children protected, physically and emotionally, while nurturing a stronger parent/child relationship on both sides of the family tree.
Check out our blog on family apps for divorced parents to learn more about some of the best ones available.