Co-Parenting vs. Parallel Parenting: What’s The Difference?

Parenting is already a tall order without a divorce element in the picture. Some parents continue co-parenting for the sake of their child’s upbringing, while others take a more parallel approach due to lingering differences. Either way, post-divorce parenting styles truly depend on the relationship between and desires of each parent involved. 


Co-Parenting, Defined

If you’re the parent to a child or children outside of a marriage, cohabitation, or romantic relationship, then you’re likely in a co-parenting situation. Co-parenting is a scenario in which two people align to tend to their children while separated or divorced. It’s also a term used to describe a separated couple’s desire to maintain equal responsibilities for a child’s care and upbringing. Many psychologists appreciate this route since it upholds positive connections with both parents, rather than suffering a weaker relationship with one or the other. 

To ensure that it goes smoothly, co-parents often practice healthy communication and develop a fair parenting schedule. This is often seen in staggered pick-up and drop-off schedules for school, or a week-by-week schedule which evenly splits time between each parent. Still, this is a big adjustment for any child. Transitioning between houses on a regular basis can limit their time with friends and extracurricular activities, sometimes resulting in a sense of resentment towards one or both parents.

Additionally, loyalty conflicts are more likely to arise in co-parenting situations. This is when two parents are vying for their child’s favoritism, or lifting their own roles higher by putting down the other parent. This is a significant downside to co-parenting, as children should never be used as a messenger or someone to vent to about divorce.


Parallel Parenting, Defined

On the other hand, parallel parenting is reserved for those parents who want to co-parent while in a state of high conflict. It’s a detached arrangement where divorced couples limit their direct contact and communication with each other regarding daily or routine child care matters. 

Parents can still remain close with their children under these circumstances, although decisions for day-to-day care are usually made separately versus the more collaborative nature of co-parenting. Parallel parenting can actually serve as a prerequisite for co-parenting, as the lack of contact often helps to defuse high conflict situations. Over time, as conflict settles and hostilities weaken, a parallel parenting scenario could grow into a more collaborative relationship reminiscent of co-parenting

Although these two strategies are different, there are benefits to both co-parenting and parallel parenting. If separated parents can remain amicable enough to continue raising their child as a team, then co-parenting is a great choice, which allows the child to keep a positive relationship with each parent. Then again, parallel parenting can serve to lower a child’s exposure to parental conflict. Many parents also enjoy sticking to their own parenting rules, which often shapes a healthy relationship with both parents. Parallel parenting is just a bit more fragile, as using a child as a messenger or mediator can easily breed unwanted resentment. 


Avoid Divorce Litigation with a Settlement-Minded Family Law Attorney

Divorce is an emotional journey to endure. On top of the bitterness and anger which often result from a formal separation, the subsequent legal battles tend to make the whole process marginally more painful. At the Law Offices of Jennifer Owens, we revel in the power of choice. When spouses face divorce, they’re presented with a slew of decisions with a handful of potential outcomes. Our attorneys are believers in the best possible outcome, where a former couple chooses reconciliation over destruction, so that they can finally move onto their next chapter. We can help with that. No matter your desired path – mediation, a negotiated settlement, or even litigation – The Law Offices of Jennifer Owens will achieve the best possible outcome by reaching a settlement that keeps all involved parties in mind. Visit our website to review our family law services or contact us online for a free consultation

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