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Co-parenting and parallel parenting: what’s the difference?

It is undeniably difficult when parents to a child are separating. When navigating the maze that is Family Court proceedings, you may have heard the terms ‘co-parenting’ and ‘parallel parenting’. So, what do they mean?


Co-parenting is a technique adopted by parents who are separated, but amicable and still able to communicate with one another. The parents can both attend things like the child’s birthday and school events, without issue. There is an open forum for discussion promoted by both parents, thus making the separation easier on everyone involved. Constant communication also means the child experiences a more cohesive parenting style and consistent routine and discipline, because the parents share similar goals and ideals in terms of parenting. The child and their wellbeing are the focus of the parents, not one another. This style certainly requires effort from both sides, in that they must constantly work together and collaborate, but a healthy example is then provided to the children. Furthermore, studies have shown that children with greater access to both parents have better physical, mental and health outcomes.

Parallel parenting

On the other hand, parallel parenting is used by parents who cannot easily or amicably interact with one another about their child. Changeover is usually at school, where the parents do not have to see each other, because they cannot easily communicate. The parents cannot attend the same events, like extracurricular activities. In these scenarios a specific parenting-related app is used for the parties to communicate about child-related matters, because a phone call or text message is not possible without conflict. While this may seem like the easiest way to deal with your separation, it is important to remember that these kinds of arrangements can be psychologically and emotionally detrimental to children. The children should be able to see their parents engaging in communication and in place. Parallel parenting is sometimes employed as a temporary solution while the emotions of the separation are being dealt with – but it is important to remember the impact on children of such a strategy. They may wonder why the two of you don’t speak at changeover or compare their family to other children’s at their school. This will likely impact on the long term parenting arrangements for the children.

Overall, it is important to remember that not all families work the same way. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to parenting problems, and what is suitable for you and your family may not be for someone else’s.

If you are currently experiencing a separation, and there are children involved, please contact our office and we will be more than happy to assist you in navigating the matter.

You can contact us by clicking this link.


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