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What Is Parallel Parenting in California? 2024

By Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP | Jul 13, 2023

In an ideal world, separated parents would be able to come together and still parent their children with a sense of unity and cohesion. Of course, in an ideal world, we wouldn’t have divorces, custody battles, and parenting divisions either. Since we don’t live in that mythical world, we recognize that there are times when parents, for a number of possible reasons, just cannot seem to work together. For those situations, parallel parenting can be an effective alternative to co-parenting and other, more collaborative efforts.

Parallel Parenting

Parallel parenting is a beneficial arrangement in particularly high-conflict divorce circumstances. There are some situations where the parents do not find it possible to communicate without there being conflict. The goal of parallel parenting is to create a way to limit the opportunity for conflict and, therefore, limit the exposure of the children to that conflict. In general, the parental decision-making that isn’t spelled out in a parenting plan is going to be left to the parent who presently has physical custody of the children, except in case of emergencies. Also, contact is kept to a minimum and often occurs through apps designed for situations like this, where editorial comments are removed from communication. In some circumstances, the court may even appoint a parenting coordinator or special master to further reduce the opportunity for conflict.

Parallel Parenting Plan

Almost all custody situations involve a parenting plan. However, it is particularly important in the case of parallel partnering. This is because the more exhaustive the parenting plan, the less the necessity for communication between the parents. Less communication, in turn, means less opportunity for conflict. The parenting plan should also be specific. Some of the things that should be in the parallel parenting plan include:

  • When each parent’s time with the child will be and how long it will last
  • How exchanges will be handled
  • How things like holidays and vacations will be addressed
  • The process for managing any cancellations or alterations to the custodial schedule
  • Detailed rules for how communication between the parents will be handled, which can often be through some kind of application
  • A plan for how decisions regarding the child’s schooling, health, and other parenting issues will be addressed.


Q: What Is Parallel Parenting?

A: Parallel parenting is a plan that is meant to address situations where the parents are not able to work together when parenting. Parallel parenting means trying to keep the parents from having to interact very much and to keep communication to a minimum. This doesn’t necessarily mean no contact between the parents, as some contact may still be necessary. However, it may involve alternative means of contact as well. For instance, parents may stick to text-based messages rather than speaking in person or on the phone. There are even some apps, designed to remove editorial comments while passing information, that some people in parallel parenting situations use. While parallel parenting, the decision-making responsibilities are determined by a parallel parenting plan, and the rest of the decision-making, except for emergencies, is left up to the parent who is taking care of the child at that time.

Q: When Is Parallel Parenting a Good Idea?

A: Parallel parenting is designed for high-conflict cases where co-parenting is simply not an option. These can be situations where the parents can’t seem to get along or agree, but it can also run deeper than that. It could be narcissistic personality traits of one or both parents leading to problems. There might be an utter lack of respect, preventing the parents from working together. Emotional damage might be preventing effective communication. It could also be resentment that one or both parties cannot let go of and is inhibiting their ability to work together. In these situations, a parallel parenting plan can minimize the exposure of the children to the conflict while still giving both parents the opportunity to have time with and raise their children.

Q: What Is the Difference Between Parallel Parenting and Co-Parenting?

A: Co-parenting and parallel parenting are near opposite approaches for raising kids in the wake of parents splitting up. Co-parenting is a heavily collaborative effort between the two parents, who take the time to share parenting notes with each other and work together to maintain a united parenting front. It creates more consistent parenting expectations for the children, regardless of which parent they are with. However, co-parenting requires both parents to maintain a level of cooperation and willingness to work together that is not always possible. When there is high conflict in a relationship, to the point that one or both parents can barely stomach the thought of even communicating with each other, parallel parenting reduces the communication level to a minimum and helps minimize the conflict that the children are exposed to.

Q: What Should Be Included in a Parallel Parenting Plan?

A: An essential part of parallel parenting is having a parallel parenting plan. This plan needs to be thorough and should address any issues that have a particular possibility of sparking conflict. Some of the kinds of things that should be included are:

  • Parenting time arrangements, including the process of cancellation and rescheduling of parenting time when necessary
  • How to handle holiday and vacation arrangements
  • The process of making custodial exchanges
  • Rules for how communication between parents will occur, which is typically through a third-party method
  • The process for decision-making regarding the children’s schooling, medical issues, religious instruction, and both emergency and non-emergency medical situations

Work With Someone You Trust to Help Build Your Parallel Parenting Plan

The same issues that make parallel parenting a good option in the first place can often make the development of a parallel parenting plan difficult. It’s unlikely that the two parents are going to be able to sit down and hash it out, even in the presence of lawyers. Therefore, the plan is likely to be developed and negotiated through representatives of both parents. This is one reason why, in high-conflict divorces, it’s especially important to have a lawyer you can trust. At Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, we take the time to really understand what our clients are looking for and value in a parenting plan and fight for those things. If you’re ready to have us fight for you, contact us today.

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