Would co-parenting not work in your situation?

Not everyone fits into the "co-parenting" mold. Those pictures of families spending vacations together, attending school activities as a family and otherwise interacting amicably after a divorce may make you jealous or even angry since you can't ever picture that happening for you.

You and your future former spouse can hardly be in the same room together, let alone sit down to a family dinner at this point. Even so, the one thing you both agree on is making the transition easier for your children and having as much time as possible with them. But if you can't co-parent, how can that happen?

Enter parallel parenting

If you remember from math class, parallel lines never touch. They extend out in the same direction, but never intersect. This mathematical concept is the basis for parallel parenting. If you and the other parent can't stand to be in the same room together, continue to argue in front of the children and otherwise attempt to undermine each other when possible, parallel parenting could work for you. If the only thread holding you together is your love for your children, the following parallel parenting rules could help:

  • Never make negative comments about the other parent around the children.
  • Painstakingly work out a parenting time schedule and even include birthdays, holidays and other extraordinary events. Agree to strictly adhere to this schedule unless a true emergency comes up, which you can define in your parenting plan.
  • Flexibility does not exist in this arrangement. Any changes must occur in a predetermined manner and may require court intervention.
  • Custody exchanges occur in a public place and/or through a neutral third party, and both parents will arrive on time.
  • You and the other parent do not communicate in person. If you need to relay information about the children to the other parent, you must do it in an agreed-upon method, such as email, text or through some other electronic method.
  • You and the other parent will not attend school or extracurricular functions for the children together. You can attend larger events, such as sporting events, at the same time since you can sit far away from each other.
  • You can schedule separate parent-teacher conferences. If the school needs a court order, you can request one from the court.

The goal of parallel parenting is to limit the contact you have with the other parent as much as possible. The last thing your children need is to see you and the other parent arguing since the goal of the divorce is to make that stop. Moreover, you and your ex-spouse don't need those interactions anymore either.

You may not want to have anything to do with your former husband or wife, but you acknowledge that his or her presence in the children's lives is necessary. Many people feel as you do, and you shouldn't feel bad that you can't co-parent your children at this point. That could change in the future, but for now, you need to do what is best for your children and you.

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Robin Jill Schneider
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