Nassau County Bar Association

Parallel Parenting for High-Conflict Families

There are plenty of books and articles about co-parenting after divorce and how to have a “healthy co-parenting relationship” with your former spouse. While some of this advice is very good and useful, it doesn’t apply to everybody.

If it’s impractical for you to invite your ex over for a family dinner at your place or if you can’t see yourself having a civil conversation with your ex’s significant other, most of the co-parenting advice circulating around may not apply to your family, and that’s okay. A “parallel parenting approach” may be more suitable in your situation.

Parallel Parenting Defined

What is parallel parenting and how does it work? “Parallel parenting is an arrangement in which divorced parents are able to co-parent by means of disengaging from each other, and having limited direct contact, in situations where they have demonstrated that they are unable to communicate with each other in a respectful manner,” wrote Edward Kruk Ph.D. in Psychology Today.

Some families are high-conflict and that’s just the way it is, and it’s going to take time for things to improve, especially when there’s been infidelity or a lot of arguing during the marriage. In such cases, parallel parenting can allow the parents to disengage from each other while still focusing 100% on their parenting efforts, but individually, not in a unified manner as with low-conflict families.

When Time Heals Old Wounds

In most high-conflict families, time heals old wounds. As time passes, the dust settles, trust is earned and restored, and eventually, the parents can have better communication and they can be more flexible with each other.

However, it doesn’t happen overnight. To restore trust slowly and gradually, it’s best for parents to stick to the parenting plan or child custody arrangement and to not deviate from it. Gradually, trust builds and communication between the parents improves.

“Parallel parenting thus provides a foundation for cooperative parenting, as parents move from a place of disengagement toward more direct communication and negotiation,” wrote Dr. Kruk. With parallel parenting, the best form of communication is typically emails and text messages with face-to-face communication being kept to a bare minimum.

Next: Fighting for Custody? Beware of Moving Out

Do you have a high-conflict relationship with your soon-to-be-ex? If so, an attorney from our firm can help. We can offer you advice on how to manage your divorce while adopting a parallel parenting approach. We represent parents in both high and low-conflict situations and can guide you toward a practical solution. Contact us to learn more.