Which post-divorce parenting style best fits your family?

When parents decide to end their marriage, the biggest concern is their children’s well-being. While children of divorce can still thrive, it’s much more challenging if parents can no longer communicate in a civil manner.

What’s usually best for kids, unless abuse or addiction is involved, is to have mom and dad continue to be fully engaged in their lives. But the healthiest thing for your kids is accomplishing that while minimizing conflict with your former spouse.

Co-parenting vs. parallel parenting

Many divorced parents maintain respect and have no problems communicating with their ex. But others can’t stand to talk to or be around a former spouse. Depending upon your situation, there are generally two parenting methods after divorce:

  • Co-parenting: Both parents make decisions together, frequently talk about their children’s needs, and some attend family events together. They remain flexible, pursue creative solutions and maintain mutual respect.
  • Parallel parenting: This is the opposite end of the spectrum, where one or both parents want independence from the other, and their kids live in parallel households. They rarely communicate in person because it’s the best way to avoid conflict. The formal parenting plan defines their parenting relationship.

Typically, parenting relationships fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, and one parent may be more inclined toward co-parenting. The other may be better suited for parallel parenting.

Where do you fall on this spectrum?

The best strategy is generally the one that shields kids from continuing conflict between parents. To determine what’s best for your family, it’s crucial to be honest when answering these questions:

  • Can we reduce or eliminate arguments so our kids can live in a peaceful nesting or two-household arrangement?
  • How much contact can I tolerate with my ex-spouse?
  • How much contact do I want with my ex?
  • Is it essential to work together and communicate directly with my ex in all parenting decisions?

Rely on a structured parenting plan

Regardless of how well you and your former spouse get along, it’s vital to you and your kids’ future to create a detailed parenting agreement. This document spells out how you’ll share time with your kids, including holidays, birthdays and vacations.

With the help of an experienced family law attorney, the plan will also provide directions over making educational, medical, religious and other vital decisions. While parents can still be flexible and creative when issues arise, the arrangement provides a template for parents who can’t or won’t communicate.

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