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Structured communication is essential for parallel parenting

If you and your former spouse are recently divorced and still have a highly combative relationship that's making successfully co-parenting your children impossible, your attorney, therapist or others may have suggested the option of "parallel parenting." While that's generally not the ideal co-parenting arrangement over the long run, it can help parents put some space between each other until anger and other emotions subside. Perhaps most importantly, it can save kids the stress of seeing their parents continuing to fight.

In parallel parenting, parents make many everyday decisions regarding their kids when they have custody or visitation without consulting with one another. Larger decisions regarding medical treatment, educational options and the children's religious upbringing are still made jointly or are based on the legal custody agreement already in force.

If you choose parallel parenting, it's wise to have a clear parenting plan in place. This can delineate expectations up front and further minimize the need for communication. It may also reduce the risk that either parent will do something their former spouse considers to be unacceptable.

Parallel parenting doesn't eliminate the need for communication between parents. Fortunately, there now are many forms of communication that don't require people to speak to one another or even communicate directly via text or email (both of which can easily be used to open old wounds).

Co-parent apps provide multiple communication platforms, including journals, calendars and tools that let parents request a change or swap in parenting time without engaging in direct communication. Communications are time-stamped and protected from deletion or editing. This can eliminate disputes over whether one parent or the other failed to notify their co-parent of an important issue or change.

If you are seeking a parallel parenting arrangement or if you and your co-parent have already agreed that this is the best choice for your family — at least for the time being — your attorney can help you establish ground rules for your communications. This will give the arrangement the best possible chance of working out.

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