Parallel Parenting

When a family is divided following a divorce or separation the parents are often involved in co-parenting. The Cambridge dictionary defines co-parenting as the sharing of responsibility for raising a child often between people who don’t live together as a couple. Co-parenting can work despite parents separating where there is an amicable agreement relating to the custody of children or where an order for child arrangements has been made by the family court. However not all separations are amicable, some divorces and separations can be hostile and can sour the relationship between parents. In such situations parallel parenting may be the answer to successfully parenting your children.

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What is parallel parenting?

Parents may find they are unable to remain amicable with their former partner following their separation or divorce. Parents may find the environment in which communicating with the other parent has turned hostile volatile or involves conflict. In such circumstances parents often wonder if they can parent children successfully with limited interaction with the other parent. Parallel parenting allows parents who share custody of the children to carry on parenting their children in their own style and have limited contact and interaction with the other parent. The purpose of parallel parenting is to limit interaction and conversation between separated parents to only essential information which directly concerns the children. Parallel parents can parent their children independently in a way they want without any interference or obstruction from the other parent when the children are with them. The purpose of parallel parenting is to reduce parental conflict.

Is parallel parenting the same as co-parenting?

Parallel parenting and co-parenting are not the same and in fact are at the opposite end of the spectrum from one another. In co-parenting parents work together to ensure a stable and supportive environment is provided for the children despite their being two separate households. In parallel parenting, as well as their being separate households, the techniques of parenting may also be different. In co-parenting parents are able to communicate effectively, and often frequently, for the benefit of their children. Quite distinctly parallel parents limit their communication with one another to only what is needed for the child. Therefore, frequent telephone calls, text messages, emails and use of parenting apps is often non existent in parallel parenting. Parallel parents will not be working together to parent the children. With parallel parenting parents will also keep away in matters concerning the children’s school meetings and even medical appointment despite both parents sharing parental responsibility over their children.

When is parallel parenting used?

Parallel parenting is often used in cases where the separation of parents is not amicable. There is likely to be high conflict and parents may not be able to speal to one another without causing further problems. In such situation parallel parenting will be used to avoid the risk of conflict and especially used to prevent the children being exposed to parental conflict which could affect the children emotionally as well as psychologically.

How does parallel parenting work?

Parallel parenting works by allowing each parent to parent their children using their own parenting approach and style without interference from the other parent. This affectively allows parents to distance themselves from one another by limiting communication yet still allowing the children to spend time with both parents and allowing them to enjoy two stable households. Parallel parents will set boundaries to allow them to spend time with their children and care for them independently. With parallel parenting boundaries are set with a clear understanding of arrangements to limit conflict, communication, and confusion. This is often done by the uses of a parallel parenting plan. This style of parenting will only work if there is no harm done to the children. If there is a risk of potential harm to the children, then even parallel parenting may not work.

What is a parallel parenting plan?

Parallel parents will create a plan which will contain clear specifics, boundaries, and expectations in relation to the management of child arrangements, this plan is known as the parallel parenting plan. The parallel parenting plan will include clear rules which will be followed and will consider potential situations which may arise when parenting. At Kabir Family Law, our specialists can assist you in creating parallel parenting plans which are tailored to your specific needs and ensure you are free from conflict and can avoid your children witnessing acrimony and conflict. A parallel parenting plan will usually list arrangements and details in much more detail when compared to a normal plan.

Parallel parenting plans can also be court ordered where courts believe parents are unable to co-parent effectively without exposing children to conflict. 

What should parallel parents include in the plan?

Parallel parenting plans need to contain as much information to ensure you achieve your outcome of limiting your communication with the other parent. It should also include information on how to deal with future situations should the need arise.

The following are key information which parents may want to include in a parenting plan:

  • Details of the contact arrangements of each parent. This should include the start period as well as the end period which parents will spend time with the children.
  • The specific arrangements for child contact such as the specific times, place and how the handovers will take place as well as the specific days of contact.
  • Information as to how decisions relating to the children will be made. This includes basic decisions such as school activities, extra-curricular activities, to most serious decisions such as medical appointments and emergency situations.
  • Specific information relating to your communication with the other parent. This will usually include details of how you will communicate with one another and more specific in what situation you will communicate.
  • The parallel parenting plan may also include details of which specific family members you approve of to be around the children whilst the child is in the other parents’ care and which family members you disprove of.
  • Financial responsibilities in relation to the children. i.e., which parent will be responsible for certain expenses.
  • Details of how and when the other parent can take the child on holidays and how much information is needed to be provided.
  • Timetable of which parent the children will spend special occasions and religious festivals such as birthdays and Christmas.
  • Information on what happens where one parent cancels or reschedule prearrange child care time.

How can parallel parents ensure the plans are successful and effective?

Our family law specialists have vast amount of experience in dealing with parents who are not able to effectively co-parent. From their experience they have provided the following helpful tips to ensure your parallel parenting plan can be successful:

  • Ensure your communication with the other parent is minimal – after all the purpose of you adopting a parallel parenting approach is that you are not able to effective co-parent your children due to conflict. Such a parenting style requires parents to take a step back when communicating with the other parent. This will assist in reducing conflict. Regardless of the situation you must try and stick to the communication arrangements made of course except in emergency situations which you may not have envisaged.
  • Ensure you are specific – when drawing up your parenting plan ensure you are specific as to when and how handovers will take place. This will avoid confusion and will clearly define what is expected from each parent.
  • Use of tools to limit communication – quite surprising tools such as the calendar and parenting apps can reduce the need to communicate with the other parent. Using a calendar also allows you to monitor certain events and activities so you are kept up to date. Calendars also allow you to monitor parenting time which reduces the need to question the other parent. Such tools could also shield your child from conflict as you will be aware of what activities your child has taken which could minimise the need for you to question your child.
  • Respect the decision of the other parent. It is important to note that with this approach you have adopted you need to ensure you are not interfering in the childcare of your children whilst they are in the care of the other parent, similarly as you will not want the other parent to interfere in your parenting.
  • Avoid responding to anything not related to your children. The other parent may try to exert control or even attempt to harass or intimidate you. You will need to ensure you are switched off completely to any communication other than what is agreed. Even then just ensure you respond to communication which directly relates to your children.
  • Forget about what the children or the other parent do when they are with the other parent. With time your children will get used to the rules, boundaries and expectations at each household and will adapt. You must ensure you reduce any worrying and are able to stay fit and healthy for your children’s sake.
  • Allow yourself time to accept the situation and heal. Separation and divorce can be stressful. With time you will be able to ensure your child is not deprived of access with the other parent and are happy. The children are innocent. You will also be able to move on and will have time to relax and carry out activities you like when the children are spending time with the other parent. Remember you can only ensure your children’s needs are met when you are feeling your best.

What are the benefits of this parenting style?

Parallel parenting has its own benefits and disadvantages. The main important benefit is that the children can spend time and maintain relationship with both parents. Given that the children are innocent they can benefit from the love, care and affection of both parents. Children also feel secure knowing that they have two households. This type of parenting method can also allow you to keep some information confidential such as your address given that handovers can be arranged at neutral venues and by third parties if agree. A major benefit with this parenting style is that the children will no longer be exposed to parental conflict. As both parallel parents will be limiting communication there is less risk of arguments, hostility, and conflict. This is ideal, as it will reduce the damage the children likely to suffer both emotionally and psychologically if they continued to witness the hostility.

By adopting parallel parenting, you also won’t have to put up with the other parent as the communication will be restricted to purely of that which concerns the children. This means you can focus on other aspects of your life including your career, your new life and parenting your child without having to worry about the other parent. A parallel parenting plan can also set long term clarity and boundaries in relation to the parenting arrangements. The responsibilities surrounding the children’s contact, education, school meetings and medical healthcare are outlined which reduce confusion. Parallel parents can fully be aware of what their role and requirements are and are able to solely focus on the wellbeing of the children.

What are the disadvantages of parallel parenting?

One of the main disadvantages of being parallel parents is that you could face isolation as parents become separated from the decisions of the other parents. Furthermore, you may not be able to participate in every special occasion or special event relating to your child. For example, you may not be able to support your child at every sporting event as there will be times the other parent will be attending. You may lose out on certain parents’ evenings in schools or other activities at which a child may want both parents to be present. As a parent there can be nothing more heart breaking than not being there for your child on special occasions such as birthdays or Christmas.

Another disadvantage of parallel parenting is that initially the children my become confused. The reason for this is that children will need time to adapt to two different households. The children may have different routines and rules at one household when compared to the other. There maybe confusion as to what behaviour is acceptable as this could be different in one household. Parents must ensure they keep faith and trust in the order parent and believe that the other parent will keep the child’s best interests as their paramount importance when parallel parenting.

Parallel parenting could also mean there is less flexibility. This can be the case where there is a last-minute change that needs to take place. As parallel parents limit communication dealing with unexpected issues could be difficult. Kids may also feel pressured to take sides given that both parents are never seen together, children may choose sides.

Can parallel parenting plans be endorsed by the family court?

If you have reached an agreement with the other parent which involves you acting as a parallel parent then this can be sent to the court for them to endorse by consent. As with co-parenting plans the courts can endorse such parenting methods to ensure they become legally binding providing. Quite like financial consent orders such plans can form the basis of a separation or divorce agreement. 

Is parallel parenting a permanent solution?

Parallel parenting maybe entered quickly in order to avoid two acrimonious parents who are conflicting. As such this may not be a permanent solution. Our family law specialists have noted that such parenting styles may usually be a temporary measure. This is to allow tensions to ease between separated parents. The imposition of parallel parenting maybe a short-term measure until parents can agree upon long term child arrangements either through mediation or the family court.

Quite often parallel parents review their plans frequently as tensions ease. They may therefore be able to reach a solution once they have time to heal from the breakdown of the relationship. By allowing time and putting an end to hostilities in the long term parents may be able to regain tryst and confidence of each other and switch to co-parenting successfully.


How can Kabir Family law help me better manage parallel parenting?

If you are a parent who is sick and tired of ongoing conflict and want to ensure you protect your children from such conflict, then our family lawyers can assist. We can assist you in creating your parenting plan or reviewing a plan you may have received. By listening to your needs and requirements carefully together we can create a plan which is workable for you as well as being in the best interests of your children.

Contact Kabir Family Law today for a free initial consultation

If you are a parent and want to find out more information on the most common parenting methods following a separation, then contact us to discuss this further. Our family lawyers in Northampton as well as across Newcastle, Northampton, Oxford and London can assist you to ensure you fully understand parenting methods which are widely used and can assist you in deciding whether co-parenting or parallel parenting is better suited to your personal circumstances.

We provide family law advice nationally as well as internationally through telephone, email and Skype. We will also ensure you are kept up to date with your matter and assist you developing a strategy to help you succeed. Contact us today for a free initial consultation by calling on 01604 267900 to discuss your options or let us call you back.