Except in certain situations, the days of one parent having sole custody and the other visitation are a thing of the past. These days, courts across the country, including here in New Jersey, tend to believe that both parents having as much interaction with the children as possible serves their best interests.
This is where co-parenting comes into play. The problem is that not all parents can co-parent because their personal relationship degraded to the point where it just isn't possible, at least in the beginning. If you are in this position, you could enter into a parallel parenting agreement with your former spouse.
The differences between co-parenting and parallel parenting
You may look at other divorced parents and wonder how they do it. They continue to communicate often with each other about the children and seem to remain in each other's lives more than you can envision doing with your former spouse. Even so, you want to have as much time with your children as possible, and can acknowledge that you don't question the other parent's commitment to them either.
Like co-parents, you want the best for your children, but unlike them, you know that communicating with the other parent as they do isn't going to happen. Parallel parenting may be the answer. Both of you commit to finding a way to communicate only about the children and avoid any confrontations in front of them. You both agree not to interfere in how each of you spends your time with them and only communicate when it is about the children.
Documenting your plan is vital
Since avoiding conflict between you and the other parent is central to parallel parenting, you need to carefully document your plan. You can include as much detail as you need to and anticipate as many possible scenarios as you can. To that end, you may want to consider adding in provisions addressing the following:
- Agree that each of you has the freedom to parent as you see fit when with the children, and to only come together on major decisions. As long as neither party's behavior puts the children in harm's way, you cannot interfere.
- Agree to respect each other's relationships with the children and that each of you has a right to maintain and grow those relationships.
- Clearly outline how the two of you will communicate about the children. In most parallel parenting relationships, the parties avoid speaking to each other directly by using email or texts.
One advantage of starting with a parallel parenting agreement instead of struggling through co-parenting is that in time, all of the negative emotions you have for each other could disappear. At that time, you may find you are okay with having more contact with your former spouse, and vice versa.