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Co-parenting seems to be everywhere. People are sharing custody, taking vacations together and even taking turns living in the marital home so that the children don’t have to go back and forth to different homes. Many California parents take pride in the fact that they continue to have a close relationship with each other after divorce in order to continue raising their children.

Despite media coverage and emphasis on this new style of parenting after divorce, you shouldn’t feel like a failure if you can’t do it. Not every couple can remain so intertwined after a divorce — even if it is for their children. Instead, every couple should focus on a way to remain active in their children’s lives, and that doesn’t have to mean remaining in each other’s lives as well.

Have you heard of parallel parenting?

Despite your best efforts, you may simply be unable to put aside your feelings about the other parent. You may acknowledge that your future former spouse loves the children and that the children love him or her, but that is where your goodwill toward the other parent ends. You know that you need to find a way to continue raising your children, but there has to be little to no contact between the two of you, at least in the near future.

Parallel parenting may be the solution. The main elements of this type of parenting plan include the following:

  • Contact with the other parent happens only through emails or faxes. Even texting could degrade into an argument, but most people take more time when crafting an email or fax. These communications only apply to issues regarding the children such as a report from school or an illness.
  • You develop a strict parenting plan. Your visitation schedule outlines when each parent will have the children, including holidays, vacations and other special occasions. Neither parent can deviate from the schedule without making prior arrangements through email or fax. Pickups and drop offs are conducted in a public place or through a neutral third party. 
  • You develop general household rules with which each parent will abide. These rules are not meant to be too strict, but instead to provide the children with structure. They need to know what to expect regardless of which parent they reside at the time. This includes activities such as homework, meal times, bedtime rituals and the like.
  • Separate parent teacher conferences need scheduling, which may require a court order provided to the school. You may attend some school functions while the other parent attends others. Of course, you and the other parent may attend some events at the same time, such as football games or any other event in which numerous people attend and contact with each other isn’t required.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of parallel parenting involves refraining from making negative or derogatory comments about each other in front of the children. They are not responsible for the end of the marriage, and they should not have to spend time with you or the other parent listening to these types of comments. The goal is to ensure that the children enjoy their time with each of you while allowing you and your ex not to have any contact.