Parallel Parenting vs. Co-parenting—What Are the Differences?

Parallel Parenting vs. Co-parenting—What Are the Differences?

Parallel Parenting vs. Co-parenting—What Are the Differences?High levels of conflict between parents following a divorce may be the single most damaging thing for the children. Children can adapt to divorce. What they cannot adapt to is constant conflict regarding them, coming from the two people they loved the most and trust to take care of them. In short, having two involved parents is the healthiest option for your children (Of course, there are exceptions including physical or emotional abuse as well as active, untreated addictions).

Parallel Parenting

If you and your ex share custody, you may or may not have heard of parallel parenting. Parallel parenting is a relatively new term that is directed toward parents who have so much conflict and hard feelings between them that they are unable to interact or problem-solve when it comes to the children.

In parallel parenting, virtually everything regarding the children is separated. Parallel parenting is often thought of as a last-ditch effort for two parents to raise their children when every effort at co-parenting has failed. In parallel parenting, communication between the parents is kept to a bare minimum.

Any communication that involves the children is done in writing—usually via email. The emails are expected to be business-like in nature and kept brief and to the point. The “on-duty” parent does not communicate with the other parent unless there is an emergency. Child-related functions are never attended by both parents. Dates of any important events—including extracurricular activities, parent-teacher conferences, and other school functions—are determined ahead of time, then parents are assigned specific functions.

During drop-offs and pickups, each parent should wait in their respective vehicles, having no verbal exchanges. A system must be established with the child’s teachers, doctors, therapists, babysitters, etc. to ensure both parents are apprised of the mental and physical well-being of the child. Obviously, the above model is for parents who simply cannot be even remotely in the same area without high levels of conflict.

Parallel parenting can be adapted to specific situations. As an example, while you might not want to sit next to each other at your son’s basketball game, you might be fine sitting on opposite sides of the court. Parallel parenting can sometimes morph into co-parenting as time passes and conflict subsides. Parallel parenting significantly reduces a child’s exposure to parental conflict, allowing the child to establish healthy relationships with both parents.


When divorced or separated parents choose to raise their child together, sharing equal responsibility, co-parenting requires them to maintain at least a semblance of a cordial relationship. You may or may not be friends with your ex, but at the very least, you can always remain civil with one another where the children are concerned. Co-parenting does not necessarily mean there won’t be conflict or bumps from time to time, just that any conflict does not interfere with the child’s relationship with either parent.

Co-parenting allows the child to build a healthy, positive relationship with both parents. Co-parenting significantly decreases the likelihood of a child taking on the adult role by keeping the peace between his or her parents. Peaceful co-parenting ensures the child does not feel as though he or she must “choose” between parents, leading to a sense of stability. Good co-parenting means the parents can discuss child-related issues rather than requiring the child to be the “messenger.”

While the parents may not always be positive about the child’s visit with the other parent, successful co-parenting requires they at least remain neutral. Co-parenting requires coordinated parenting time and agreement on most things having to do with the children via frequent communications, flexibility, and mutual respect.

Which is Better—Co-Parenting or Parallel Parenting?

Obviously, it’s better for children if they see their parents peacefully making decisions on their behalf, rather than seeing them in high-conflict situations. In some situations, one parent may lead toward the co-parenting side, while the other leans more toward the parallel parenting side. If there is not too large a divide between the two, a compromise can be made. If, however, these are extremely far apart, parallel parenting may be required. The decision will also be determined by the following:

  • How much parenting time each parent is awarded
  • How the start and end times of the parenting times are structured
  • How pick-ups and drop-offs are structured
  • The manner in which last-minute changes, illnesses, and cancellations will be handled
  • How any future disputes will be handled

Once these issues are addressed, it may become clear which method of parenting will work best for you and your children.

Contact Our Atlanta Child Custody Lawyers

At Hobson & Hobson, P.C., our Atlanta child custody attorneys know that most parents want what’s best for their children – even if it means working with their ex. We can help you craft the perfect parenting plan to fit your needs so that you can give your children the life you’ve always dreamt of for them. Divorce doesn’t have to change that – and we can help.

Call us today at (770) 284-6153 or fill out our confidential contact form. We can set up a consultation so that you can review all your legal options.

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