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Parallel Parenting when Co-Parenting Fails

It is an “ah-ha” moment when you realize that co-parenting with your former spouse is just not working. The divorce is final and you are concerned about the effects it may have on the children. Like any good parent, you want what’s best for your children. Parallel parenting is an interesting option for those finding difficulty with the co-parenting plan where you work together with one set of rules.

Co-Parenting and Its Weaknesses

Co-parenting means that parents agree to certain terms and rules that will operate in both households. It is often felt that the consistency in parenting styles and rules will help children have better behavior, attitude, and that it will be less confusing to children who are switching from house to house. Co-parenting sometimes fails because it can be difficult for parties to agree on anything after the emotional rigors of divorce.

When this breakdown or inability to co-parent occurs, the conflict and uncertainty created by it throw the adults, and more importantly the children into a state of unknowns. Sometimes, agreeing to disagree may be the way to go. This plan B is called parallel parenting.

Plan B – When Co-Parenting fails, turn to Parallel Parenting

When co-parenting is not working the parents must recognize that is the case and consider other options. Parallel parenting may be the next best option. Here are the following ways you can establish a harmonious co-parenting relationship with your former spouse through parallel parenting.

What is Parallel Parenting and How Does It Work?

  • Separate parenting plans, styles and methods- In parallel parenting, parents establish their own rules for parenting the children without interference or influence from the other. Here parents must come to terms with the fact that their former partner may utilize a completely different parenting style and that this is okay. Parallel parenting requires each parent to accept the other’s parenting style and to refrain from interfering.
  • Have a plan and work out the details ahead of time. A great plan factors in the details and sets up a system that becomes automatic. This relieves the parents of the pressure of having to make decisions together on a regular basis. The plan will designate specific pick-up and drop-off locations that do not require parents to interact, such as scheduling access exchanges at the school around the school day schedule. Specific dates and times for access exchange need to be included in your parallel-parenting plan. These are especially important for dividing holidays and school breaks. You will also want to talk with the school about things such as Friday folders being sent to both parents, as well as other important documents, so that parents do not need to rely on the other to provide them with the information.
  • Communication on a need-to-know basis- Parallel parenting allows parents to communicate only when they need to know something relevant to the children. For example, who is going to attend the parent-teach conference, or to tell the other the course of action prescribed by the doctor for the child’s illness. The guiding theory here is that the less communication between the parents the better. Less communication minimizes the opportunities for the parties to criticize each other or to push each other’s buttons.
  • Smart, Brief communication. Parallel parenting not only involves communication on a need-to-know basis, but also requires short, concise information exchanges. You will want to agree on the method of communication and when it will take place. For example, parallel-parents may decide to communicate via text message because it is fast and does not require a spoken conversation. If a phone call is required to keep things on track for the child, schedule it for a specific date and time, and have a checklist of things you need to discuss. Try to stick with what’s in your notes, as it is the best way to maintain a safe, civil tone throughout the exchange.
  • Emotion-less communication. It is essential in any type of parenting to keep any residual negative emotions out of the communication. Neutral is the key word here. To be successful in any communication between parents, it is imperative for them to put their children first and to practice self-control when communicating with their former spouse.

Although it is best for the children when their parents can communicate with each other civilly, unfortunately, that is not always the case. When this occurs, it must be recognized and dealt with for the well-being of all parties, but especially the children. Parallel parenting is an option to enable parties to deal with the reality of the inability to effectively communicate. Over time the negative emotions may subside. When this happens, the situation can be re-evaluated in a different light.


If you would like more information on how to effectively co-parent after divorce, please contact Linda Sorg Ostovitz at or 301-575-0381.





Linda Sorg Ostovitz is a family law attorney. Her legal experience spans more than 34 years. In this time, she has served as a leader, educator and advocate. Mrs. Ostovitz holds a prestigious fellowship in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Currently, she serves as President for the Business Women’s Network of Howard County, by which she was chosen Woman of Distinction for 2014. Mrs. Ostovitz represents clients in Howard, Anne Arundel, Carroll and Baltimore Counties. Her practice focuses exclusively on divorce litigation and mediation, child custody and access, child support, alimony, business valuation, as well as property and asset distribution. In addition to providing legal representation in court, Mrs. Ostovitz provides mediation services to help families come to a fair and legally-sound conclusion outside of the traditional court proceedings.



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