As a parent, you want to be consistent with your child. You want to teach them right from wrong and instill values that they will hold onto as they grow and develop. When they misbehave, you want to make them understand why what they did was wrong and show them the correct way to behave moving forward.
In terms of parenting, you would hope that your co-parent would be on the same page with you. You would hope that the two of you would communicate, in order to ensure the best outcome for your shared child.
However, your hopes are not always reality. You may not have a civil relationship with your co-parent, and this is especially evident when the divorce still is fresh. The emotions may be too raw, causing conflict that can land you back in family court.
This is why you may need to be in constant contact with your family law attorney. Your family law attorney will have the experience necessary to help you navigate issues, if your child custody rights are threatened or your co-parent wishes to pursue a raise in alimony or child support.
Just like many Americans across the country, you may experience a volatile relationship with your co-parent, but that does not mean the amount of parenting time that you have should suffer. This also does not mean that your children are worse off, or that your custodial rights should decrease from joint physical custody, just because you do not get along with your co-parent.
According to the Institute for Family Studies, joint physical custody parents generally do not have a better co-parenting relationship or significantly less conflict that sole physical custody parents, and children exposed to high, ongoing conflicts between co-parents do not have any worse outcomes in joint physical custody situations than in sole physical custody situations.
If you find yourself in this type of situation with your co-parent, parallel parenting may be the solution you are looking for.
What it is
Parallel parenting requires you and your co-parent acknowledging that the only reason for you two to communicate with one another directly is in cases of emergency. This requires going over plans ahead of time, in order to ensure that your paths do not cross. These plans include specific dates, places, and times for drop-offs and pick-ups, as well as who is charge of major decisions surrounding education and health, in case you are not in agreement on those matters.
This agreement may require the use of a third-party facilitator, who can help mediate the creation of the plan and any further face-to-face meetings between parents. Many versions of this exist through organizations, such as mental health professionals, members of your church, social workers, or child care specialists.
These types of talks need to squash any notion that flexibility is implied. You need to make it clear that this plan is to be adhered to at all times. Every detail needs to be available on a shared calendar, and contingency plans for cancellations and methodology for dispute resolution need to be outlined.
Putting this agreement in place means that you are running your households independent of one another, so instructions should not be sent from one parent to another. In addition, you should not attempt to change your co-parent’s parenting style, just as they should not attempt to change yours.
Putting your child first
By enacting parallel parenting you are attempting to do what is in the best interests of the children, and that means your love for your children needs to remain greater than your negative feelings toward your co-parent.
You also should not feel like you are doing something wrong by enacting parallel parenting. According to the study from the Institute for Family Studies, joint physical custody parents are more likely to have detached, distant, and parallel parenting relationships than to have co-parenting relationships, where they work closely together, communicate often, interact regularly, coordinate rules and routines, and attempt to parent the same way.
As ideal as it would be to have a communicative and civil co-parenting relationship, you may not be facing that reality. The reality is that divorce can cause unrepairable rifts in your relationship with your co-parent, and as much as they may want you to “just go away” or you may want them to do the same, you share a child, and this may be the best solution for him or her.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.