Thursday, December 29, 2016

CO-PARENTING vs. PARALLEL PARENTING - WHICH IS BEST FOR YOU?

In every divorce, parents must strive to keep the needs of the children as their #1 priority.  Children benefit most when they have relationships with both parents and tend to adjust better to divorce when:

·       They have healthy and happy relationships with both of their parents;

·       Parents don’t argue in the presence of their children;

·       Parents don’t place their children in the middle of disputes; and

·       Both parents are responsive to the needs of their children.

CO-PARENTING

“Co-parenting” describes a situation where the parents are not married, cohabitating or in a romantic relationship with one another.  Co-parenting often involves a parenting situation in which two separated or divorced parents communicate and work together to take care of their children.  Co-parenting can also describe a situation where, after a divorce, the child’s parents desire to maintain equal or equivalent responsibility for their children’s upbringing.  When successful, Co-parenting is a wonderful opportunity for children of divorce to still have access to both parents and retain a sense of family dynamic.  To come to a workable co-parenting arrangement, the parents must consider various factors, including:

·  What decisions need to be made? These commonly consist of decisions regarding education, extracurricular activities, medical treatment, sporting and social activities, religion, etc.

·      How will you make the decisions?  Will you meet in person to discuss decisions?  Will you communicate over the phone?  Email?  Text?

·     How will you share schedules?  How flexible do you want to be in scheduling?  When will the children see each of their parents?  What if one parent is late --  how will you deal with this?  Will the schedule remain the same as the children get older?

·     How will you handle discipline? How can you try to be on the same page when it comes to discipline? How will you communicate when a problem arises? Will each parent handle discipline on his and her own? If a child misbehaves at mom’s house, should he be disciplined by both parents or just mom?  If a child misbehaves in class, should she receive discipline from both parents or just the one she is returning home to?

·   What will happen in an emergency?  Have you provided your ex-spouse with all emergency contact information?  Will the parents notify one another before emergency medical treatment?

·      How will you handle disputes? If the parents cannot agree on a disciplinary issue, how will you deal with it? Is there a mutually-trusted family member or a friend who can help you discuss the matter? If the disagreement involves a medical decision, can you ask the doctor for guidance and advice? Or, if the dispute is an especially difficult one, will you seek the help of a professional mediator?

Because parenting involves a substantial number of decisions in all aspects of the child’s life, it is helpful to draw up a chart listing certain decisions and who should make them.  Here’s a brief example:

Who makes decisions regarding:

Mom
Dad
Together
HOUSEHOLD RULES & CHILDCARE



Allowances



Bedtime



Clothing



Grooming



Computer, software, and video game use



Television shows (which shows, what time)



Cell Phone, Computer, & Internet use



Meals



Toys



Handling behavior problems



RESIDENTIAL



Living situation



Transportation



SOCIAL LIFE



Dating



Driving



Friends



Sports & Social Activities



Sharing Cost of Activities



EDUCATION & MORAL TRAINING



Morals, values



Religion



Choice of Schools



Helping with homework



After school care



Extracurricular Activies &
Expense Sharing



HEALTH



Dentist



Doctor



Medication



Major medical issues



Psychological counseling, if applicable





Unfortunately, harmony cannot be achieved in every case despite both parents’ best efforts to cooperate.  When parents are unable to co-parent in a healthy, effective way that is in the best interests of their children -- or when one of the parents refuses to cooperate -- it can be a source of great conflict and stress for everyone involved. Many studies have found that most children of divorce grow up to be healthy, well-adjusted adults; however, children who are raised in corrosive, high-conflict parental situations are at risk to develop emotional problems that can last a lifetime. Sometimes, divorced or separated parents simply cannot work together, despite all their efforts. When that is the case, they should consider using a technique known as “Parallel Parenting.”

PARALLEL PARENTING

Parallel Parenting is a type of parenting arrangement that is best in situations of high conflict where parents have different parenting styles and can’t see eye-to-eye on even the most basic issues.  It is a form of co-parenting where a mother and father reduce the level of conflict through disengagement.  Specifically, they have limited direct contact with each other. And when they do communicate, it takes place in a more structured manner, such as through email.  Each parent sets rules for his/her own household (bedtimes, homework, TV or computer times, discipline, etc.), without concern that they may be different than the rules that are in place in the other parent’s household.  Some principles to keep in mind include:

·       Parents must never use their children as messengers to communicate back and forth; 

·       All communication must be business-like in nature and relate to information relevant only to the children’s well-being;

·       Schedules should be shared via a calendar or in writing;

·       No changes to the parenting-time schedule should be made without written agreement.

Parallel parenting, if done the right way, can provide children of divorce or separation with the same sense of fulfillment and happiness as a healthy co-parenting relationship.  Because parallel parenting is normally employed when parents disagree with one another to the point that they cannot communicate effectively, those in parallel parenting arrangements should remember that their exes are their children’s parents and, for that reason alone, they deserve respect.  Keeping differences with one’s ex away from the children will open opportunities to move beyond divorce in the future. 

Whether one decides to co-parent or try out parallel parenting, the main concern should always be what is in the children’s best interests.  




Gary Frank & Jacinda Chen


At the Law Firm of Gary J. Frank P.C., both Gary Frank and attorney Hanna Juncaj are strong litigators and compassionate counselors. Gary Frank is a Family Law Attorney with over 30 years of experience as a litigator and mediator, which includes having acted in the capacity of a Judge Pro Tempore in the Maricopa County Superior Court; and serving on the Governor's Child Abuse Prevention Task Force. Hanna Juncaj is a highly-skilled attorney with a passion for Family Law and children's issues. We handle Family Law cases in the areas of divorce, custody (now called "Legal Decision-Making and Parenting Time), relocation (move-away), division of property, spousal and child support, modification and enforcement actions, grandparent and non-parent rights, and all other matters pertaining to families and children. If you are in need of a consultation, please do not hesitate to call our office at 602-383-3610; or you can contact us by email at gary.frank@azbar.org, or through our website at www.garyfranklaw.com.   We look forward to hearing from you.