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The Difference Between Co-Parenting and Parallel Parenting

The Difference Between Co-Parenting and Parallel Parenting

Most courts in recent years issue decisions based on shared parenting – commonly called co-parenting. Some are still unsure exactly what that means? It gets even more confusing when another seemingly similar term arrives on the scene: parallel parenting. What are these two parenting techniques and what is the difference?

Co-parenting is parental responsibility shared between two parents who are separated or divorced. The term and the method have roots in a United Nations convention in 1989 that established basic rights for the children of the world. At this convention, specific effort was given to establish precedents that could protect children from the sex trade and general exploitation by adults. At the same meeting it was agreed that children had the right to know both of their parents; even if those parents were not married or together in any way.

This sentiment was interpreted by American family courts to mean that no matter what (abuse, criminal action, etc.) decisions regarding legal decision making and parenting time should be focused on:

Parental rights to raise their children

The insistence that parents operate in a mature and cooperative manner

Policing parents to prevent “alienation” of one parent from the children

Throughout the last two decades, the legislation weaved its way throughout the states’ family law courts – taking on a life of its own and a different intent than was originally presented at the meeting of world leaders. In some situations, this line of reasoning could result in domestic violence and sex abuse victims being forced to communicate with their abusers, spend time with them at family functions/events, share personal information with them…all to be found in “cooperation” with the intent of the law. Obviously, in this situation, to cooperate with the law, victims must act despite personal wounds, fear of additional abuses, and the overall sense of unrest that comes with forced interaction with and close proximity to a criminal.

In these cases, co-parenting provides an abusive parent (or narcissist parent) with a clear path to further abuse – some might even say court sanctioned abuse. Providing an abusive ex this type of power and control post-divorce is not in the best interest of the child. Is there a solution?

The Solution When Co-Parenting is Inappropriate: Parallel Parenting

Parallel parenting means that two divorced or separated parents parent individually of each other with minimal communication. Parents are not required to “work together,” cooperate or share information about their lives.

With parallel parenting, you will typically find:

A very detailed court ordered parenting plan (including holidays, time-sharing, drop off routines, medical decisions, religious and education decisions, etc.)

Parents spend little or no time together

Parents required to communicate with each other in written form

The parent currently with the child being the parent in charge of the child (with no requirement to notify the other parent of anything short of a medical emergency)

Communication limited to business tone and only in relation to the children

No personal information shared between parents

No changes to the schedule assumed and any changes agreed upon being agreed upon in writing

No fault assigned if one parent refuses to make a change to a schedule in place

No use of the children to relay information between parents

In many situations where abuse was present in the marriage, parallel parenting will be the option seen as more suitable and in the child’s best interest. It sets clear boundaries and cuts down on opportunities for any further abuse. Parallel parenting is not easy, but in some cases, it is the best solution to a difficult situation.

If you need additional information about co-parenting, parallel parenting or other common legal decision making and parenting time arrangements seen in Arizona family courts, please get in touch with us at Arizona Family Law Attorneys today.
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