All separated parents somehow will need to figure out a way to parent their children. The ultimate question will be how close or distant will that parenting be. The level of detail in a parenting plans usually run along a continuum where as a divorce professional I can help parents to adjust based on their level of conflict.
Where parents have a lot of conflict, how can they work out how they will parent the children?
Where the conflict is high, I look to help parents create more distance between them. We use a term in the divorce world called a parallel parenting plan.
Think of it like two parallel lines – one parent parents over here with their own set of rules and kid management, and one parent parents over here and does their own thing, and there’s not much cross-over as far as communication, problem-solving, or interacting generally about the children.
Generally, in these parenting plans, parents will act autonomously from one another in each of their households and in management of the children.
This type of parenting plan is distinct from a co-parenting plan which is more co-operative in nature, and where the parents generally communicate and problem-solve with one another about things that impact the children. In these cases, we can use less detail in a parenting plan.
Why would parents decide to create a parallel parenting plan as opposed to a co-parenting plan?
Quite simply, this type of parenting plan is intended to help de-escalate conflict between parents. Why do we need to do that?
We’ve talked in previous episodes about the negative impact of parental conflict on children’s healthy development and on their ability to thrive in a two-home childhood. Where parents are unable to reduce their conflict to the point of being able to interact constructively with one another, it may be best to operate more autonomously in each household.
Do you wonder the impact that this type of parenting plan has on the children? Most certainly it’s better if parents are able to co-operatively parent with one another, and effectively problem solve together.
However, if the option is interaction creating conflict OR autonomy preventing conflict, then I would say that it’s better for children that their parents parent more at a distance.
What do parents need to consider if they think that this parallel parenting is right for them after separation or divorce
First, think about communication
This is often one of the most difficult things for parallel parents to do effectively, and so it’s important to make a very detailed plan for how communication will go.
I often recommend that parallel parents get off the text messaging, and avoid verbal communication as much as possible because these two methods tend to escalate conflict quickly and lead to misunderstandings.
Email or better yet a co-parenting app are my two recommendations for parents who have difficulty effectively communicating.
Next, create a detailed parenting plan
The higher the conflict, the more important it is to create the roadmap for parenting expectation right from the start. When I work with parents, I usually first assess the level of conflict, and from there I can determine the level of detail that we need to put into the agreement. More conflict = more detail.
Last, try to avoid opportunities for conflict in front of the children as possible
Maybe you figure out a neutral way to exchange the children so that there’s no opportunity for discussion which could lead to conflict within ear-shot of the kids.
Or maybe you create a schedule for who will attend activities on which day so that there’s no overlap.
If you assess the types of situations where conflict typically arises between you and your other parent, make a plan generally to avoid.
Henka Divorce Law & Mediation is a Collaborative Law and Family Mediation firm that helps families thrive as they transition to separation, divorce, or cohabitation. Understanding that every journey is different, we guide families through the right legal or mediation process that fits their unique situation.
Our client service is built on three pillars – focusing on the future, nurturing and supporting children, and working together towards well-being. This includes considering everyone’s needs throughout the process. We work closely with families to provide a meaningful and fair resolution, while keeping costs down by staying out of court.
We serve families in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada through their separation or divorce by providing in-person and virtual Collaborative Law or Mediation services.
With extensive knowledge in matrimonial law, our founder Stephanie Dobson uses a caring, results-focused approach to help parents navigate a family separation or divorce while they connect with and support their children. Learn more about her approach and credentials.
As an educator, Stephanie Dobson is Founder, CEO, and Content Creator of Up A Notch Learning Inc., an e-learning platform to empower separating and divorcing families globally with a collection of positive and constructive resources. Visit our website to learn more.