The idea behind co-parenting is that, even if the parents themselves have parted ways, they agree to maintain a civil and cordial relationship when it comes to raising their children and making important decisions about them.

Co-parenting requires that the two parents communicate effectively and cooperate with each other. While this is an ideal, for many couples, emotional baggage, conflict or even a history of abuse can make it difficult, if not dangerous, to maintain a close relationship.

Parents should not blame themselves for this situation, but they should still consider exploring options other than engaging one another in a court fight over custody and visitation. After all, litigation often only damages relationships further and costs time, money and stress in the process.

One alternative is to consider parallel parenting. In a parallel parenting arrangement, both parents recognize that there is too much conflict between them to work together effectively but that they can at least agree to disagree, in a manner of speaking. Therefore, they intentionally create a parenting plan in which, as much as possible, they disengage from each other and focus on their relationships with their children.

A parallel parenting plan will therefore frequently spell out in particular detail exactly what the parenting schedule is, which parent will make what decisions, and the like. Very few things will be left on the table for the two parents to work out later or as they come up. For those times when parents do have to communicate, the plan will set up a safe space where both parents can communicate professionally, such as via special email addresses created for that purpose.

An experienced family law attorney or mediator can help parents create a parallel parenting arrangement if doing so is right for their situation.