Parallel Parenting

Parallel parenting is an undemocratic but child focused solution for high conflict and high risk divorces. It is court ordered but simple and straightforward. Usually it is temporary. In this type of parenting, the child will be with one parent for a few days and then switch to the other for another couple of days, according to a defined schedule.

Each parent is responsible for the day-to-day activities and the control of the child when the child is under his or her wings. The parent in charge can decide on the day-to-day activities independently of the other parent. The parents do not have to coordinate their parenting efforts.

This day-to-day activities decision making is different from the child custody decisions. The custodial parent decides on education, health care, insurance and religion. The character of parallel parenting does not allow for shared custody. Instead, sole custody is the norm.

Parallel Parenting Plan Court Order

A parallel parenting plan is issued by the court.

Parallel parenting is a temporary solution when one or both parents constantly break the law, when a parent cannot be trusted or when one parent threatens the other parent often. Also, when the parents prove to be incapable to communicate or cooperate about the child or when they put the well-being of their child at risk a judge can enforce parallel parenting.

The court orders Parallel Parenting

The court itself orders parallel parenting and specifies the provisions in detail. A normal parenting needs to be defined, agreed and filed by the parents at the family court in many states. The parenting plan must be approved by the court, after which it can be enforced if one of the parents deviates from what has been agreed.

Parallel parenting gives the child the opportunity to spend time with both his parents without being troubled by their constant conflicts and disagreements. The idea is that during the limited period of parallel parenting, the divorced parents get their act together. Once that is the case, a different parenting regime can be agreed upon and brought into place.

Mandatory parenting education

The court can order parents to attend parenting classes or conflict resolution classes. Parents will learn that their enduring open conflict has long term negative effects on children of divorce and how they can resolve their conflicts.

Parallel Parenting Rights and Responsibilities

In parallel parenting, the parents are both responsible for sticking to the ordered parenting times. The child has no say in this.

Parents are not allowed to bring up excuses to deviate from the schedule. Excuses like "the child does not want to go", "the child is not at home, I do not know where it is", "my ex-partner is behind in paying child support", "the custodial partner is not willing to let the child go", a minor illness or similar excuses are not tolerated.

Special Time Schedules

Usually, there are special time schedules for summer periods, vacations and holidays. Holidays to be respected in the U.S.A. are at least: birthdays of the parents, mother's day weekend with mother, father's day weekend with their father. Thanksgiving and spring break: usually one year with one parent, the next with the other parent.

For Christmas Eve and Christmas day there are several possibilities, similar to Thanksgiving. Sadly enough, most states to not provide rules for Holidays of other religions or for those cases in which families do not adhere to a religion at all.

Furthermore, the parallel parenting order includes rules for:

  1. Transportation of the child when switching places
    • Both parents must be present during switching
    • The parents are not allowed to enter each other's premises, unless explicitly authorized
  2. Emergency changes
  3. Communication
    • Communication in parallel parenting is in writing most of the time, as parents have difficulty communicating
    • The implementation of a communication book is often required. All major events, especially related to health care, education (school results) and activities.
    • The communication book is exchanged between the parents each time the child switches places
    • Respect the others, meaning: not talking bad about the other parent, use the child as intermediary to get a message to the other partner
    • Ask the child about the other parent
  4. Respecting and recognizing the basic needs of each child:
    • Ensure that the divorce is not the fault of the child
    • Ensure that they develop and maintain a healthy relationship with each or their parents
    • Ensure that the child does not have to choose between one of their parents
    • The child must be kept out of and far away from parental conflict
    • To spend and enjoy substantial time with each parent on regular intervals
    • To feel and to be financially supported by both parents
    • Physical and mental safety
    • To have meaningful relationships with other significant family members and and other relatives)
By Reinier Bloem
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