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Parallel vs. co-parenting arrangements  

On Behalf of | Mar 5, 2024 | Child Custody

In the past few decades, as courts and society as a whole have moved away from a “sole custody” default model, parallel parenting and co-parenting have emerged as two primary approaches for managing the upbringing of children. 

Understanding the differences between these two approaches is important for parents whose romantic relationships are at an end. Although co-parenting is the more common approach, it isn’t right for every family. By carefully evaluating both options, parents can get a better sense of which approach may best serve their children and their families more broadly.


Co-parenting is characterized by a high degree of cooperation, communication and coordination between a child’s parents. In a co-parenting arrangement, both parents actively work together to make decisions regarding their children’s lives, from daily routines to significant life events. 

This approach requires a strong foundation of mutual respect and a commitment to putting children’s needs above personal differences. The open lines of communication in co-parenting allow for a more unified parenting front to provide children with consistency and stability across both households.

Parallel parenting

Parallel parenting, on the other hand, is a method of parenting that is often employed when high levels of conflict between parents make direct communication and cooperation challenging. In this arrangement, each parent operates independently of the other, with minimal direct interaction. 

Parallel parenting plans are typically very detailed, outlining specific schedules, responsibilities and decision-making protocols to minimize the need for direct communication. Additionally, there is generally the assumption that any matter not detailed otherwise in a parenting plan can be handled separately in each household. Meaning, kids may need to follow different rules and employ different expectations for daily life at each house.  

This approach can be particularly beneficial in situations where interactions between the parents are likely to lead to conflict, thereby protecting the children from potential stress and emotional harm.

The choice between parallel and co-parenting is deeply personal. There is no single approach that works for every family. As such, carefully considering each option is wise when it’s not immediately clear which approach will suit a particular family’s needs best. 

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