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Cassandra T. Savoy Attorney at Law

Co-Parenting Or Parallel Parenting?

  • By: Cassandra T. Savoy, Esq.
  • Published: October 19, 2020

You know what I think? I think for the sake of the children, the courts should stop requiring parties who share children to get along with each other! It seems obvious to me that when parties divorce, it is for a reason. Usually, that reason is one of them has grown weary of the other whom they view as narcissistic, controlling, and a bully. One of them is tired of the other‘s vindictiveness; tired of participating in the competition that the other turns every interaction into. It’s the same when it comes to unmarried couples who share children. The reason they never married is all too often that they see (in advance) qualities in the other that militate against the idea of marriage. Parties can love their children without loving each other. In New Jersey, public policy dictates that parties share “joint legal custody” even though the time spent with the children is unequal. The problem with co-parenting is that co-parenting requires the parents to agree on parenting issues. The fact of the matter is that if they could agree, they would likely either still be married or still be in a relationship.

In the co-parenting relationship, you have to agree. Mom says, “I want Amir to attend a charter school. It’s very near my house and I’ve met the teachers and the school seems great!” Dad says, “I want Amir to attend a Catholic school. Everyone knows that catholic school education is better, schools are safer and there are fewer discipline problems.” You know who breaks that tie? The court! It is precisely because the court has to break the tie over and over again as parents who do not get along return again and again that court dockets remain full. The court decides which activities the child will attend, which colleges they will attend whether they will get braces or other non-emergency treatment. This is not what courts should do or can do effectively while the poor children are caught in the conflict.

Parallel parenting does not affect who has residential custody but dictates that each parent does what he/she wants with the children without having to consult or agree with the other parent other than on those matters that require an economic contribution from the other parent or infringes on the other parent’s parenting time. There are several huge advantages to parallel parenting.

  1. Parallel parenting reduces stress by allowing parents to disengage from each other and make separate decisions without the requirement of getting the agreement of the other parent. In a parallel parenting agreement, maybe you alternate years when Dad and Mom get to decide on the children’s activities. In even years, Mom decides that they play baseball. In odd years, they go to computer camp.
  2. Parallel parenting reduces conflict by reducing the amount of interactions and the reasons the parents need to interact. The most high-stress, high-conflict part of co-parenting occurs at the exchange. With parallel parenting maybe Mom drops off in the AM; Dad picks-up in the PM at school. When the children are not in school, another neutral site is selected.
  3. Parallel parenting allows parents to live their lives as they choose without constantly having to answer to the other parent. Parents are not required to communicate to the other everything about the child’s activities. Both parents have unlimited access to the children’s coaches, teachers, doctors, and school web portals. If either parent wants information about the children, he or she can get it without the intervention or consent of the other parent.
  4. Parallel Parenting allows children to love and be with each parent without having to report to the other parent because the parents are no longer competing. Each parent can have “rules of the house” without regard of the other parent’s “rules of the house.”

Most importantly:

  1. Parallel parenting is healthier for children. Children don’t have to worry about losing a parent or displeasing a parent. They don’t have to be the ball in the tennis match. They don’t have to be in the middle. They can be loved and comforted by both parents.
  2. Parallel parenting is healthier for the parents because it breaks the co-dependency cycle. The screamer no longer has anyone to scream at. The controller no longer has anyone to control. Parents can break their anger addiction and their addition to wanting to invalidate the other parent.

While co-parenting sounds like a good idea, all too often it is not. It sounds like a good idea to have parents get along, but courts are not set up to manage personalities and behaviors. When the court forces a co-parent to co-parent with one who is controlling, or competitive, or vindictive, or narcissistic it can actually be unhealthy and undesirable, if not harmful. So, what I think is that as you go back to court, or deal with court-ordered parent mediators, you need to demand the use of the parallel parenting model rather than a co-parenting model. You should present to the court:

  1. The benefits for your children when they get to maintain equal relationships with both parents, and the benefits of the children when they do not having to worry about the parents agreeing or getting along.
  2. That parallel parenting will allow the parents to let go of the anger and attempts to control each other.
  3. Advise the court that it is better for the parents, the children, and the courts if parents are allowed to disengage rather than become “frequent flyers” who repeatedly return to court crowding the docket problems the court is not designed to solve.
  4. That the requirement for parents to consent and agree should be limited to those things that require contribution from the other parent. Courts should reduce the need for parents to engage each other. Each parent should be allowed his/her parenting style.

About the Author Since 1991, Cassandra T. Savoy has helped divorcing parties get the
best possible result, inside the courtroom and out...Read More