7 expert tips that will help with successful parallel parenting

Parallel parenting is a style of parenting that separated parents can adopt if they have a relationship beyond repair but when they’re still required to parent their children together. This situation can occur if you and your ex-partner are experiencing an especially high-conflict divorce. Ideally, the best approach is to co-parent despite any differences. However, this isn’t always possible – this is where you might consider the parallel parenting approach.

By Ebony Morris, Senior Associate at Australian Family Lawyers

What is parallel parenting?  

Parallel parenting generally deals with short-term decisions that occur in each party’s home. However, it can relate to some long-term decisions as well. Typically, when discussing the meaning of parallel parenting, we are talking about variations in discipline, activities and approaches toward routine and structure.

This style of parenting is different from co-parenting, where the relationship is sound enough to be able to proactively and positively parent together. When co-parenting, parents will make joint long-term decisions for the children, despite their relationship and feelings towards the other. Co-parenting works when parents can resolve issues together allowing the children to move more easily between homes. Parents will communicate effectively and, in some cases, may even be able to attend events and functions together while keeping their interactions polite and respectful.

In contrast, parallel parenting is an alternate approach for parents who cannot interact with one another or have vastly different views on the children’s best interests. This makes it difficult to resolve problems and issues together in a child-focused manner that both parents can agree on. With this parenting approach, parents keep decision-making separate and will rarely attend anything together for the children. This may include events such as parent-teacher interviews or extra-curricular activities. There will be little communication and what you discuss will usually be in writing.

7 tips to parallel parent successfully

Mother playing with child has a successful parallel parenting plan

If you are having difficulty co-parenting with the other party, we recommend some of the following helpful tips and tools for parallel parenting:

1. Ensure any agreement you reach is in writing

No matter whether it be a parenting plan, child custody schedule or a consent order filed in the Federal Circuit and Family Court, getting things in writing is paramount. Which approach is best will depend on individual circumstances. Contact our office if you need advice on formalising your parenting agreement. 

2. Be specific

When entering into an agreement, even an informal one, ensure that you are specific. For example, set out the times and places for when and where you collect the children. This can also limit the amount parties have to discuss and agree on outside of a written agreement,

3. Plan changeovers to avoid conflict

Where possible, have changeovers occur at school (pick up and drop off), so that the children are not exposed to contact and potential conflict between you and the other parent. At times this isn’t possible, have changeover occur in a public space with the children easily able to move safely from one parent to the other,

4. Lay out communication rules

Have specific rules around communication. This may mean dictating whether the communication is by SMS or email, or even through a specialised communication app for separated and divorced families. These can include interactive shared calendars and other tools to help reduce the risk of confusion or disagreement.

5. Keep school obligations separate

  • Make arrangements with schools to have separate teacher-parent interview times (this is a matter for the school but is usually easily accommodated.)
  • If the relationship is so fractured that parents cannot attend children’s school events together, have a plan in place. For example, which parents attend which events? You could consider alternating the years that those events occur, or ensure there are specific clauses in relation to contact at those events so that both parents can attend to the benefit of the children,

6. Consider how to deal with decision-making 

In relation to decision-making, ensure that there is a specific plan as to how decisions will be made and a fallback for engagement with a family mediator or a parenting coordinator should an agreement not be able to be reached between the parties.

Is this parenting approach right for you?

There are of course circumstances where relationships are impacted so much that parallel parenting may not work or be safe.  Each relationship is different. Depending on the circumstances of your relationship, you may need more specific and detailed advice.

These situations, where it’s not practical or possible to co-parent or parallel parent would involve instances where there is a level of risk to you or your children/children. At all times, the safety of the child/children is the paramount consideration in any parenting arrangements. If you have safety concerns you should not hesitate to contact the police or seek professional advice.

Need advice on setting up a parallel parenting plan? Reach out to our friendly team directly or request a call back via the form below.

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