Parallel Parenting Is an Alternative in High-Conflict Divorce

Parallel Parenting Is an Alternative in High-Conflict DivorceCo-parenting after a divorce or separation requires that both parents communicate and cooperate with each other regarding the children. However, the relationship between some parents can be too volatile for them to remain calm around each other. Children may be more traumatized by watching their divorced parents continue to fight than by the change to their living situation. Parents in a high-conflict divorce can use an alternative form of co-parenting called parallel parenting. A parallel parenting agreement allows both sides to share in their parental responsibilities while minimizing the potential for conflict.

Schedule and Responsibilities

The first key to parallel parenting is creating a detailed parenting arrangement during divorce negotiations and adhering to it. The parenting plan should outline:

  • The schedule for when each parent has the children;
  • What decision-making power each parent has for different situations; and
  • Which situations require communication between the parents.

Many parenting agreements allow some flexibility so that parents can adapt their schedule to best suit everyone’s needs. Parallel parenting agreements are often more rigid because the parents do not cooperate well enough to be flexible with each other. One parent deviating from the agreement is likely to cause conflict.


Parallel parents will try to avoid in-person interaction with each other, such as at family gatherings or when exchanging the children. However, they need to have some communication with each other to share information about the children and possible conflicts with their parental responsibilities. Informal conversations may be unproductive because the co-parents cannot cooperate with each other. However, there are alternative forms of communication, such as:

  • Email;
  • Parenting apps;
  • Journals; and
  • Meetings with a mediator.

The parents should be formal and unemotional in their communications, resisting the temptation to hurl insults or start arguments.


Co-parents best serve the interests of their children when they are able to communicate with each other and adapt their parenting plan when it is practical. A parallel parenting plan allows parents to avoid each other and not develop the cooperative skills that will help their children. Parallel parenting is also a bad plan if one of the parents is abusive. The abusive parent will have greater autonomy over the children than with a normal parenting plan.

Creating Your Parenting Plan

Some parents use parallel parenting as a temporary plan until they have calmed down and learned how to work together on their parental responsibilities. A Kane County family law attorney at Geneva Family Lawyers can help you determine which parenting agreement works best for you and your children. Schedule a free consultation by calling 331-588-6611.


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