Parallel Parenting Plans

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Studies indicate that parents who make disparaging comments about each other, engage in verbal altercations in the presence of their children, place the children in the middle of parental disputes, encourage protective behavior by the children in favor of one parent who may be seeking to alienate the children against the other parent, and who engage in other types of behavior that repeatedly expose their children to interpersonal, parental conflict may be causing significant adjustment problems for their children.

Accordingly, an important goal that a divorce lawyer handling a contested custody case should try to achieve is reducing the interpersonal conflict between the parents that is likely to expose their children to a significant risk of harm. In the process, from a practical perspective, counsel must be willing to simultaneously recognize that divorcing parents are frequently just as unable to get along post-divorce as they were while married in a dysfunctional relationship. Counsel should further acknowledge that such parents are often, post-divorce, unable or unwilling to effectively co-parent with each other. For such parents, those prone to engage interpersonal conflict (without being able to resolve, or at least diffuse, such conflict through something as simple as an apology), one particularly useful intervention that can be employed is for the parents to engage in parallel parenting.

When disagreements do arise in such situations, it is important to remember that how the parents express, manage, and resolve the conflict is critical. Parental disagreements and conflict alone are not necessarily harmful to children.

Education is an important part of any process involving the custody and parenting plans related to children. By providing reassurance and education on specific skills for a parent to implement and available options to exercise (like, for example, deferring to a parenting coordinator under appropriate circumstances), a divorce lawyer could ultimately play a significant role in helping a child maintain greater access to two loving, caring and involved parents, who may be able to engage in at least a form of joint parenting, with the proper interventions. In such cases, a parallel parenting plan is a viable option.

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