CO-PARENTING vs. PARALLEL PARENTING – WHICH IS BEST FOR YOU?

In every divorce involving legal decision-making and parenting time issues, parents must strive to keep the needs of the children as their #1 priority.  Children benefit most when they have relationships with both parents and tend to adjust better to divorce when:
·       They have healthy and happy relationships with both of their parents;
·       Parents don’t argue in the presence of their children;
·       Parents don’t place their children in the middle of disputes; and
·       Both parents are responsive to the needs of their children.
CO-PARENTING
“Co-parenting” describes a situation where the parents are not married, cohabitating or in a romantic relationship with one another.  Co-parenting often involves a parenting situation in which two separated or divorced parents communicate and work together to take care of their children.  Co-parenting can also describe a situation where, after a divorce, the child’s parents desire to maintain equal or equivalent responsibility for their children’s upbringing.  When successful, Co-parenting is a wonderful opportunity for children of divorce to still have access to both parents and retain a sense of family dynamic.  To come to a workable co-parenting arrangement, the parents must consider various factors, including:
·  What decisions need to be made? These commonly consist of decisions regarding education, extracurricular activities, medical treatment, sporting and social activities, religion, etc.
·      How will you make the decisions?  Will you meet in person to discuss decisions?  Will you communicate over the phone?  Email?  Text?
·     How will you share schedules?  How flexible do you want to be in scheduling?  When will the children see each of their parents?  What if one parent is late —  how will you deal with this?  Will the schedule remain the same as the children get older?
·     How will you handle discipline? How can you try to be on the same page when it comes to discipline? How will you communicate when a problem arises? Will each parent handle discipline on his and her own? If a child misbehaves at mom’s house, should he be disciplined by both parents or just mom?  If a child misbehaves in class, should she receive discipline from both parents or just the one she is returning home to?
·   What will happen in an emergency?  Have you provided your ex-spouse with all emergency contact information?  Will the parents notify one another before emergency medical treatment?
·      How will you handle disputes? If the parents cannot agree on a disciplinary issue, how will you deal with it? Is there a mutually-trusted family member or a friend who can help you discuss the matter? If the disagreement involves a medical decision, can you ask the doctor for guidance and advice? Or, if the dispute is an especially difficult one, will you seek the help of a professional mediator?
Because parenting involves a substantial number of decisions in all aspects of the child’s life, it is helpful to draw up a chart listing certain decisions and who should make them.  Here’s a brief example:
Who makes decisions regarding:
Mom
Dad
Together
HOUSEHOLD RULES & CHILDCARE
Allowances
Bedtime
Clothing
Grooming
Computer, software, and video game use
Television shows (which shows, what time)
Cell Phone, Computer, & Internet use
Meals
Toys
Handling behavior problems
RESIDENTIAL
Living situation
Transportation
SOCIAL LIFE
Dating
Driving
Friends
Sports & Social Activities
Sharing Cost of Activities
EDUCATION & MORAL TRAINING
Morals, values
Religion
Choice of Schools
Helping with homework
After school care
Extracurricular Activies &
Expense Sharing
HEALTH
Dentist
Doctor
Medication
Major medical issues
Psychological counseling, if applicable
Unfortunately, harmony cannot be achieved in every case despite both parents’ best efforts to cooperate.  When parents are unable to co-parent in a healthy, effective way that is in the best interests of their children — or when one of the parents refuses to cooperate — it can be a source of great conflict and stress for everyone involved. Many studies have found that most children of divorce grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted adults; however, children who are raised in corrosive, high-conflict parental situations are at risk to develop emotional problems that can last a lifetime. Sometimes, divorced or separated parents simply cannot work together, despite all their efforts. When that is the case, they should consider using a technique known as “Parallel Parenting.”
PARALLEL PARENTING
Parallel Parenting is a type of parenting arrangement that is best in situations of high conflict where parents have different parenting styles and can’t see eye-to-eye on even the most basic issues.  It is a form of co-parenting where a mother and father reduce the level of conflict through disengagement.  Specifically, they have limited direct contact with each other. And when they do communicate, it takes place in a more structured manner, such as through email.  Each parent sets rules for his/her own household (bedtimes, homework, TV or computer times, discipline, etc.), without concern that they may be different than the rules that are in place in the other parent’s household.  Some principles to keep in mind include:
·       Parents must never use their children as messengers to communicate back and forth;
·       All communication must be business-like in nature and relate to information relevant only to the children’s well-being;
·       Schedules should be shared via a calendar or in writing;
·       No changes to the parenting-time schedule should be made without written agreement.
Parallel parenting, if done the right way, can provide children of divorce or separation with the same sense of fulfillment and happiness as a healthy co-parenting relationship.  Because parallel parenting is normally employed when parents disagree with one another to the point that they cannot communicate effectively, those in parallel parenting arrangements should remember that their exes are their children’s parents and, for that reason alone, they deserve respect.  Keeping differences with one’s ex away from the children will open opportunities to move beyond divorce in the future.

 

Whether one decides to co-parent or try out parallel parenting, the main concern should always be what is in the children’sbest interests.

Gary Frank & Jacinda Chen

 

At the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C., both Gary Frank and attorney Hanna Juncaj are strong litigators and compassionate counselors. Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience as a litigator and mediator, which includes having acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court; and serving on the Governor’s Child Abuse Prevention Task Force. Hanna Juncaj is a highly-skilled attorney with a passion for Family Law and children’s issues. We handle Family Law cases in the areas of divorce, custody (now called “Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time), relocation (move-away), division of property, spousal and child support, modification and enforcement actions, grandparent and non-parent rights, and all other matters pertaining to families and children. If you are in need of a consultation, please do not hesitate to call our office at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email at gary.frank@azbar.org, or through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.   We look forward to hearing from you.

 

PARALLEL PARENTING CAN HELP HIGH-CONFLICT MOMS & DADS PARENT EFFECTIVELY

I’m going to tell you three things that every divorced parent should know:    

  • When a mom and dad are able to effectively co-parent following a divorce, their children have an excellent chance of growing up to be healthy and well-adjusted adults;
  •  On the other hand, children who grow up with parents who are openly angry and hostile toward each other can develop long-term emotional problems that will plague them throughout their lives and could adversely affect their own relationships.
  • But the good news is that parents who find it difficult or impossible to co-parent cooperatively can still raise happy, emotionally healthy children by effectively using a technique known as “Parallel Parenting.”

If you are divorced, it’s likely that you and your former spouse didn’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things while you were married.  Communication is a difficult matter to begin with, and it doesn’t always get easier when a couple separates or divorces.  In a high-conflict parenting situation – where every phone call or text message can become a spark that ignites an angry explosion – communication after a separation or divorce often becomes worse rather than improving.  

So how can a mother and father in a high-conflict relationship learn to effectively communicate after their marriage has ended and they are living apart?  Obviously, there is no easy answer.  The road might continue to be rocky in the days ahead, and you may never be able to communicate as well as you’d like — but by employing a concept known as “Parallel Parenting” you can learn how to communicate better, and co-parent more effectively.

WHAT IS PARALLEL PARENTING?

Parallel Parenting is a form of co-parenting where a mother and father learn how to reduce the level of conflict by disengaging from each other.  They actually communicate less, and the communication takes place in a more structured manner, such as by email.  Often, in a high-conflict child custody litigation, the Court will step in and order the mom and dad to abide by a parallel parenting arrangement.  But parents are also free to employ this method on their own, without a court order.  Typically, a parallel parenting arrangement includes some or all of the following:
  • Communication between parents must be by email, rather than by phone, text message, or in person.  This allows the parents to think first and avoid making a knee-jerk comment that may be hurtful or angry — which is wise, because any remark you put in an email could later be read by a judge, and it might come back to bite you.
  • The parenting-time schedule must be in writing and strictly enforced.  No flexibility.  No trading days or weekends.  No negotiation.  Just stick to the schedule.  Since both parents know that they must stick to the schedule there is less opportunity for conflict and hostility.
  • The parents may keep a log of the children’s activities and/or medical issues during their scheduled time.  Then the parent who has the children will then give the updated log to the other parent at the end of his or her parenting time, when the children are exchanged.  Sending a log back and forth is a good way for the parents to keep each other informed about how the children are doing, while at the same time minimizing personal contact.  But the hard-and-fast rule for writing a log is this:  No editorializing.  No sarcastic comments.  No put-downs.  Just stick to the facts.
  • Each parent is responsible for obtaining information from the children’s school, including report cards, schedules, etc.  The parents should attend parent-teacher conference, performances, and events separately and have as little contact with each other as possible.
  • The parents should take turns having the children for birthdays; or split the day so that each parent has his/her separate time with the birthday boy or girl.  Parents should not attend birthday parties together if they cannot get along — and if they do they should remain cordial and have as little contact with each other as possible, so as to reduce conflict and spare the children the disappointment of having their special day ruined by their parents fighting.  
  • Each parent must come to terms with the fact that during the time the children are in the care of the other parent they may be on a different schedule, have different bedtimes, eat different foods, participate in different activities, and be disciplined in a different manner.  Obviously, neglect or abuse by a parent cannot be tolerated.  But, short of a dangerous situation, you may have to accept that your “ex” has a much different parenting style than your own, and that it’s OK.  If you parent consistently, then the children will know what to expect when in your home.  
  • It can be helpful for the parents to meet on a regular basis (monthly, quarterly, or every six months) with a counselor, a child psychologist, or a Parenting Coordinator to discuss problem issues and/or to learn how to stay on the same page in parenting their mutual children.  An expert can provide useful information and ideas, while helping the parents learn to communicate better and reduce the level of conflict
  • Above all, the parents should not place the children in the middle of their marital or post-marital problems.  Parents should not argue in the presence of the children.  They should not badmouth the other parent to the children.  They should not talk to them inappropriately about their legal case or show them court documents.  And they should not use the children as messengers or go-betweens to communicate with the other parent.  Remember, you are the parent.  Your job is to protect the children.  So, let the kids be kids, and keep them out of your adult disputes.
Parallel Parenting is often the best and sometimes the only way for high-conflict couples to co-parent.  It is not uncommon that, with the passage of time, the conflict between the parties will calm and the situation will improve to the point where they are able to communicate without anger and begin to co-parent cooperatively.

If you are caught up in a high-conflict situation and want to increase the odds that your children will grow up to be happy, healthy, and well-adjusted adults then you should consider learning the technique of “Parallel Parenting.”
Gary J. Frank is a Family Law Attorney and Mediator with over thirty years of experience in dealing in divorcecustody, legal decision-making, and parenting-time issues. For many years he acted as a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court, which gave him an insight into the inner workings of the courts that many attorneys lack.  In addition to representing Family Law clients in litigation, we are also willing to help people by working with them on a Limited-Scope or Consultation-Only basis.  Our office is located in the Biltmore area of central Phoenix, with satellite offices in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, Arizona.  We can be reached by telephone (602-383-3610); or by email at gary.frank@azbar.org.  You can also reach us through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.  If you are in need of a consultation regarding any area of Family Law, contact us today.  We’d be happy to help.