One of the key issues to settle during the divorce process is how the parents will allocate the responsibilities for taking care of their children. They will need to work together to create a parenting plan, which is a document that establishes guidelines and rules for sharing time with children and splitting parenting duties after divorce. In general, the more detailed the plan, the better.
How does a parenting plan work?
Parenting plans can be laid out however the parents want, so long as they both agree on the terms. Typically, a robust parenting plan outlines visitation schedules for holidays and other events like birthdays and school-related meetings. Some other common items to address within the plan include who will drive the kids to and from school and other obligations, how updates and changes will be made to the parenting plan in the future, and which days the kids will spend at each household.
Parallel parenting vs. co-parenting
Divorced parents can benefit from assessing whether their parenting methods after divorce will look more like “parallel parenting” or “co-parenting.” In most cases, a combination of the two styles works best, but the best choice for each family ultimately depends on the level of conflict between the parents after the divorce and their ability to communicate civilly.
Co-parenting is cooperative and requires open communication between both parents about their children. In this parenting relationship, both parties work together to establish routines and rules that are the same between the two households, so that kids will have consistency in their home lives. Parents should also discuss how they will discipline their children when necessary and if both of them will be involved.
Parallel parenting — as it sounds — means that the two parents each practice their own parenting style independent of one another. While this method can be beneficial in avoiding arguments between ex-spouses, it also forces children to navigate different rules and responsibilities when going back and forth between households.
Parallel parenting is typically the better choice if the parents have trouble communicating without conflict. While the parenting rules may be different in each home, this method can at least limit interaction between parents who are unable to cooperate with one another.
If parents are unable to agree on a parenting plan — usually through their respective attorneys — then a judge may make the final decision for them, which may not be in line with either parents’ preferences.