Society assumes that all parents work together to raise their kids, whether or not they remain a couple. When this default is broken, many people believe it has to be because one of the parents abandoned their children or was found unfit to be around them.
While this belief is sometimes true, it’s far from universal. It is perfectly possible for two adults to be willing and capable of raising their kids but unable to cooperate to coparent them. That’s why the parallel parenting technique was first developed.
How Parallel Parenting Works
Parallel parenting is a technique that was developed for people who struggle with ongoing contact with their coparent. In a parallel structure, both adults share custody of their kids. However, they make decisions for and spend time with their kids independently. The goal is to minimize communication between the adults and, as a result, reduce conflict as well.
This method is very different from the typical strategies used by coparents with less conflict. Coparenting is a system where the parents work together to maintain a united front while raising their children. In a coparenting relationship, the adults frequently discuss issues like rule-setting, the kids’ activities, scheduling, and other daily matters. While this approach has benefits, it can be extremely stressful for people who have experienced high-conflict divorces.
Parallel parenting takes a different approach. While it may not be possible to avoid all communication while sharing joint custody, it prioritizes low-communication solutions. Both adults set their own rules for their respective households and make decisions for the kids while they are there. Outside of significant issues like medical care, education, and safety, the parents rarely communicate. When they do communicate, it is typically through text, email, or a custody app to document what was said and reduce the need for follow-ups.
Pros and Cons of Parallel Parenting Techniques
A parallel approach is not necessarily easy. Anyone considering these techniques should understand the pros and cons they may experience before committing to the method. For example, some of the biggest benefits of a parallel system include:
- Less daily stress for the parents: If interacting with your coparent is painful, stressful, or anxiety-inducing, parallel approaches can help reduce your day-to-day stress significantly. While it doesn’t remove the need for communication entirely, it reduces it significantly.
- More household independence: When you and your coparent are free to make your own parenting decisions, your households are more independent. That can save you both time every week, especially if you struggle to collaborate.
- Less exposure to parental conflict: Critically, one of the biggest benefits of parallel parenting is how it protects children. Constant exposure to parental tension has been shown to have a negative impact on childhood development. By reducing communication that only leads to arguments, you reduce the frequency and severity of your kids’ exposure to parental conflict.
- Ongoing parent-child relationships: Finally, the parallel approach allows your kids to maintain strong relationships with both parents. Even if you don’t want a relationship with your coparent anymore, strong parental relationships are usually beneficial for children.
In contrast, there are some significant drawbacks to parallel methods when compared to coparenting, such as:
- Confusion and stress for the kids: When you don’t communicate with your coparent, you’ll inevitably make different decisions and set different standards. This can be confusing and stressful for children of all ages, especially if your household rules conflict with your coparent’s.
- Difficulty establishing or deviating from routines: Depending on how you divide your time, the parallel approach can make it hard to do things like enroll kids in after-school activities or plan vacations. Anything that requires the other person’s feedback will feel like a much bigger hurdle when you rarely communicate.
- Potential information loss: If you don’t communicate, it’s easy for information about your kids to fall through the cracks. This can range from missing appointments or after-school activities because you forgot to mention them to missing important health and behavior issues. After all, neither of you is getting the full picture.
The drawbacks of a parallel approach can be significant. However, it may still be worthwhile if you believe the pros outweigh the cons in your situation.
Who Should Consider Parenting in Parallel?
Parenting independently isn’t for everyone. Coparenting is the preferred method for a good reason. When the adults in the family can collaborate, they can provide a more supportive, flexible, and healthy environment for the kids to grow up in.
Meanwhile, there are many situations where spending too much time with one parent could be actively harmful to the children. In that case, custody should not be shared at all.
So, how can you tell if parallel parenting is the best choice? You can start by asking yourself the following questions:
- Are both parents capable of caring for the children? If not, joint custody is out of the question.
- Do both adults want to care for the kids? Children should never be forced to live in a household where they aren’t wanted.
- Does either parent have a history of abuse? A person who emotionally or physically abuses people should never share custody of children.
- Do the parents have a demonstrated history of struggling to collaborate? If parents can still work together without unnecessary conflict, they should consider coparenting instead.
If both of you are willing and able to care for the children without the risk of abuse, but you can’t work together, then parallel parenting may be the right option for your family.
Create a Parallel Parenting Plan With Expert Legal Counsel
Parallel parenting takes effort and dedication, but it can be worthwhile after high-conflict divorces. A strong parenting plan is the best way to avoid high-conflict coparenting with joint custody. You can develop your custody order and plan with experienced legal assistance from the expert attorneys at Regele Law, LLC in Salem, Oregon. Schedule your consultation today to learn how we can assist you with Oregon child custody and parenting plans.