Parallel Parenting

Parallel Parenting

When co-parenting is not possible, what do you do? You parallel parent. With parallel parenting, minimal interaction and a tight, structured parenting time schedule is a must. In addition, there must be an agreement that clearly defines how the parents must notify one another, exchange information and otherwise co-exist. These parameters enable parents to exercise separate and distinct, but meaningful time with the child or children without the interference of the other parent.

When parallel parenting, communication must be limited and facilitated in a safe and secure setting. One way to do so is by written means so that there is dispute regarding what was said. In New York Courts, an application (“app”) called Our Family Wizard is often implemented. Through this app, a parent cannot lie about when a message is sent and read, and how often the app is accessed. This takes away the possibility of lying and manipulation by a parent claiming that a message was sent when it was not, or that the message was altered, deleted or modified (like may be the case with a text message or e-mail). In our day in age, through artificial intelligence, the possibility of alteration of evidence and written, or even recorded verbal communication is possible.

Along those same lines, depending upon the acrimony of the parties, or if there is mental illness, past domestic violence or other controlling and manipulative behavior, absent an emergency, written communication may be limited to once per day or a few times per week. This forces the parties to think about the topics that they want to convey to the other party and lump them together which limits the other parent from feeling overwhelmed or harassed. Written content should be fact based without any nasty words or tone involved.

There needs to be a clear parenting time schedule with as little interaction as possible. This can be achieved through pick-ups and drop-offs at school, camp or the like as opposed to an exchange between the parties. Since parents who need to parallel parent do not communicate the best, it is encouraged that they stick to the parenting time schedule put in place, and that alterations or trades to the schedule are limited since this will likely cause discord between the parents.

To further limit communication between parents that are practicing parallel parenting, it is advisable that each parent receive information directly from school, extracurricular activities and the like to limit the amount of information each parent needs to share with the other. These days, most schools and extracurricular activities use apps or portals like Power School, Remind, Class Dojo, Infinite Campus or Team Snap to share information. Each parent can independently register for these alerts to ensure timely and accurate information regarding their child or children.

Lastly, when drafting a Stipulation of Settlement, clear and defined rules must be implemented to ensure neither parent can use a loop hole to cause problems for the other. For example, as it relates to the selection of summer vacation weeks, a date by which each parent must select said week or weeks should be included. Similarly, if a parent wants to vacation with the children, the other parent must be provided an itinerary with flight information, lodging and the like at least a week in advance. In some cases, it is necessary to set forth that a failure to timely provide notice will constitute a waiver of said vacation time.

Parallel parenting with your ex-spouse may be difficult. However, with the right approach and tight draftsmanship from counsel in a Stipulation of Settlement, it can be manageable.