Communication in a Parallel Parenting Arrangement

A father prepares breakfast for his kids.

Some couples that separate may find that they can maintain an amicable relationship. Others may find it difficult to even be in the same room together.

For parents, it's often essential to maintain some form of communication for the sake of their children. But when the situation is high-conflict or even volatile, sharing information and reaching agreements regarding the children can feel near to impossible to do without third-party intervention.

In this case, parallel parenting may be a positive strategy for parents to consider putting into practice. In a parallel parenting agreement, co-parenting can take place at the same time that parents have little direct contact with each other.

In this article:

Parallel Parenting Definition

Parallel parenting refers to a method of co-parenting in which each parent has their own parenting approach when the children are with them. In parallel parenting, parents do not attend the same functions, appointments, or child-related events. Communication in parallel parenting often occurs solely through email, text messages, or a co-parenting app.


What is the difference between co-parenting and parallel parenting?

Co-parenting and parallel parenting are different. A co-parenting relationship can include many communication touch points via phone, email, and text messages. The co-parents may align on a shared parenting approach for a child. In contrast, parallel parenting relationships usually involve limited communication through the written word only. Parallel parents do not share parenting approaches and essentially parent separately.


A newsletter designed for co-parents


Taking a parallel approach to co-parenting

Parallel parenting allows for high-conflict co-parents to maintain their collective parenting responsibilities while disconnecting from each other personally. This parenting strategy helps parents attain a level of independence that they may not have felt previously and helps build a framework for healthy boundaries in shared parenting moving forward.

In a parallel parenting arrangement, all of your communication should be business-like and focused on your children. You're also likely to agree to limit how you communicate to only be in writing and via one specific platform.

Certain aspects of parallel parenting will likely prove to change parts of your shared custody routine and parenting plan.

In a parallel parenting plan, you'll probably change the location of your parenting time exchanges to a neutral space away from either of your homes or use a supervised exchange service.

Parallel parenting calls for parents to agree to make day-to-day decisions for their child independently. While important decisions on matters like education and medical care may still be made jointly, everyday choices like what the kids will have for lunch or what movie they'll watch over the weekend are ones that each parent will make on their own.

All in all, this parenting style lays a foundation to end high-conflict co-parenting. It helps encourage parents to remove their focus from one another and keep it solely on maintaining the well-being of their children.


Benefits of parallel parenting

While a more cooperative co-parenting situation is often ideal, parallel parenting isn't an arrangement that must last forever. One of the benefits of parallel parenting is that you can allow the arrangement to morph depending on your family's needs and how your relationship evolves with your co-parent.

Other benefits of parallel parenting include:

  • Less conflict between homes
  • Greater sense of confidence when making parenting decisions
  • More predictability when communicating about parenting matters
  • Reduced stress for the whole family, kids included
  • Choosing a communication method for parallel parenting

In a parallel parenting arrangement, it is necessary for parents to find an appropriate method of communication. You may find that the method you choose for shared parenting communication stands apart from the other methods you use to communicate with others.

Phone calls, emails, and texts may be unsuitable in many high-conflict co-parenting situations, and their free-form nature will often make them an unsuitable choice for parallel parenting. Instead, choosing a method that promotes greater structure and clarity in communication will prove to support parents in their efforts to improve their communication.

Online tools and co-parenting apps that offer secure, unalterable platforms for parallel parenting communication can aid in allowing parents to have some connection while still maintaining their distance.


OurFamilyWizard for parallel parenting communication

OurFamilyWizard offers a suite of tools built to create a framework for organized, focused communication in a co-parenting or parallel parenting arrangement.

For messaging, OurFamilyWizard offers a secure system that thoroughly records all parenting communication. Messages are time-stamped when they are sent as well as when they are first viewed by the other parent, and messages can never be edited or completely deleted. This creates an accurate and transparent record of correspondence that can easily be obtained.

Beyond a simple yet secure messaging tool, there are several other features on OurFamilyWizard which let co-parents focus communication or a request solely on one matter at hand. One tool that will particularly be of help to those in a parallel parenting arrangement are the various functions of the OurFamilyWizard Calendar.

For instance, instead of sending a long-winded proposal for a change in parenting time, parallel parents can make that request using the schedule change request tool built into the OurFamilyWizard calendar.

All that needs to be communicated are the dates and times for the proposed swap and a brief reason—no more than a sentence or two. This prevents parents from letting anything else get involved with this one specific matter. Once received, the other parent may approve, and all appropriate changes to the calendar will be made automatically.

More than just for communication between parents, attorneys or other practitioners working with a family can be granted access to oversee the activity going on between parents within OurFamilyWizard. With access to both parents, practitioners can work directly with the family by creating entries, viewing their complete sign in histories, downloading and printing customizable reports of activity, and more.

A parallel parenting arrangement may be a bit harder to manage and take time for parents to get used to, but it can make an enormous difference for families struggling with conflict.

It may last a couple of months or a few years, but the hope is that parallel parenting will introduce a new structure to your family that promotes peace in both homes.

Some aspects of parallel parenting can be confusing to put into practice, but help is available. Parenting classes—either online or in-person—can help you learn more about what this arrangement will look like and how to get started.

Don't hesitate to look for parenting classes near you. Our Regional Resources Directory is a great place to start looking for classes and other parallel parenting resources near you.



NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.

Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.