Parallel parenting in a high-conflict divorce

More than likely, you had a good reason why you and your future former spouse decided to end your marriage. Perhaps your relationship degraded to the point where you can't even be in the same room together without arguing. Even though you may mourn the loss of what you once had, you may be excited to begin the next phase of your life without your ex-spouse.

The one thing keeping you from enjoying life without your ex is your children. Regardless of the state of your relationship, you still need to deal with your ex-spouse because of them. When you hear about people co-parenting, you probably cringe. The last thing you can envision is having to spend time with the other parent, even if it is for the sake of the children.

What can you do?

Since co-parenting is out of the question, you could choose parallel parenting. This type of parenting plan allows both of you to spend ample time with the children while having as little contact as possible with each other. The basic structure of a parallel parenting plan includes the following:

  • You need to choose a method of communication, which only involves issues regarding the children, such as medical issues, school matters and the like.
  • You need to create a visitation plan that each of you can follow. For instance, if one of you has a job that keeps you away from home for days at a time, visitation should not include days you won't be available.
  • You need to choose a method for dropping off and picking up the children. In this type of plan, it usually takes place in a public area in order to limit the potential for arguments.
  • Speaking of arguments, you aren't always going to see eye to eye with the other parent, so you need to establish a method for dealing with and resolving these issues as they arise.
  • You need to establish a way to deal with canceled visitation times, which will happen sometimes. Life tends to interfere with plans, and you need a way to handle visitation when it happens.

Another part of the plan could be an agreement not to speak ill of each other in front of the children. They should also not be a go-between for communication. This keeps the children from feeling as though they have to take a side or feel guilty that they don't feel about the other parent as you do.

Another important tenet of parallel parenting is that outside of maintaining some consistencies between households -- think bedtime, homework and other daily routine matters -- each parent has the freedom to parent as he or she sees fit. The other parent does not have the right to criticize or interfere unless the other parent's actions put the children in harm's way.

Protecting your rights

Whether you and the other parent are able to create a parallel parenting plan together or need the assistance of a neutral third party, you will want to protect your rights. This is yet another aspect of your divorce where an experienced and compassionate family law attorney could prove invaluable.

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