Twenty years ago, most divorcing parents adopted similar custody (or “parenting time”) arrangements. Typically, the couple’s children would live with one parent (the “primary custodian”) the majority of the time, and they would spend regularly-scheduled “visitation time” with the other parent.
In 2019, divorcing parents are finding lots of new ways to divide the time they spend with their children. In some cases, the amount of time that is divided is actually very limited. The California courts recognize that traditional custody-and-visitation arrangements do not always serve a child’s best interests; and, as long as divorcing parents are able to devise a custody arrangement that complies with California law, they can largely determine how to distribute their parenting rights without court intervention.
Co-Parenting vs. Parallel Parenting
As we have discussed previously, one option that divorcing parents are utilizing with increasing frequency is co-parenting. With co-parenting, both parents continue to jointly play an active role in their children’s lives. As you can imagine, this is not a viable option for everyone. But, when both parents are willing to set aside any differences for the benefit of their children, co-parenting can be a desirable option for everyone involved.
In addition to co-parenting, we also frequently get questions about parallel parenting from parents who are contemplating divorce in California. While co-parenting and parallel parenting may sound similar, the reality is that they are options on two opposite ends of the spectrum. While divorced spouses who agree to co-parent may celebrate the holidays, attend events, and even vacation together, parallel parenting essentially ensures that the parents will communicate with each other no more than absolutely necessary.
When to Consider Co-Parenting
In order for co-parenting to work, both parents must be fully committed to the arrangement. They must be willing to work together regardless of any personal preferences to the contrary, and they must have a legitimate desire to maintain an ongoing relationship with one another. Some of the characteristics of a successful co-parenting arrangement include:
- Both parents wish to maintain an active role in their children’s lives and do not want to sacrifice any more time with their children than is absolutely necessary;
- Both parents are willing (and desirous) to end their marriage on amicable terms and are willing to put their children’s interests before their own; and,
- Both parents are confident in their ability to co-parent successfully.
When to Consider Parallel Parenting
In contrast to co-parenting, parallel parenting is an option reserved for divorces in which the parents are not on good terms. The parents may be openly hostile toward one another, and they will typically be unwilling (or unable) to set aside their differences for the benefit of their children. Examples of scenarios in which parallel parenting may be necessary include:
- One or both parents harbor resentment toward the other;
- One or both parents are unwilling to work together to develop and follow a parenting plan; and/or,
- One or both parents fundamentally disagree with the other’s approach to parenting.
What if Neither Option is Right for Me?
If you feel that your situation falls somewhere between these two, you are not alone. Most parents develop parenting plans that fall somewhere in between co-parenting and parallel parenting. For more information about the options that are available, we encourage you to read our Child Custody FAQs.
Contact North County, San Diego Divorce Lawyer Richard M. Renkin
Richard M. Renkin is a North County, San Diego divorce lawyer and Certified Family Law Specialist who has been representing divorcing parents for more than 30 years. If you would like to request a confidential initial case evaluation, we invite you to call us at 619-299-7100 or contact us online today.