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Parallel parenting could be the answer to your custody issues

You love your children, and so does your future former spouse. You want to make the transition as easy as possible for your children as you go through your divorce and start new lives. However, you have one large issue -- you have no desire and no inclination to spend any more time with your ex-spouse than you absolutely have to.

Your relationship has reached the point where being in the same room together only brings out the worst in each of you. Even so, you want your children to have as much time with each parent as possible. What can you do?

You don't have to co-parent

You may be under the impression that the only way to ease your children into their new lives and help them thrive in the future is through co-parenting. Fortunately, that isn't the case. Parallel parenting could work well for parents like you who want little to nothing to do with their ex-spouses. Under this parenting plan, you and the other parent agree to abide by the following:

  • Limit face-to-face contact
  • Create a specific and detailed parenting time schedule
  • Abide by the schedule
  • Agree to no flexibility in the schedule
  • Parent independent of each other
  • Keep track of events in the children's lives on your own
  • Do not rely on the other parent to provide information about events in the children's lives
  • Do not tell the other parent how to take care of the children, discipline them, etc.
  • Agree to inform the other parent of emergencies
  • Divide the responsibility of important care decision-making, such as medical decisions, religious upbringing and education choices, or keep these choices with one parent
  • Devise a plan to handle any conflicts that arise
  • Limit any necessary in-person contact to no more than 30 minutes
  • Do not speak ill of the other parent around the children
  • Do not argue or speak ill of each other in front of the children
  • Carry out custody exchanges in a public place during business hours if possible
  • Any needed communication should occur through text or email
  • No phone calls or in-person contact except in an emergency situation

Unless there is a compelling reason to maintain this parenting style until the last child reaches adulthood, you could treat this as a temporary situation. In some cases, the feelings parents have for each other fade over time, at which point they may modify their parenting plan to reflect a better ability to get along and cooperate. In the meantime, the adults can go about their lives without intervention, and the children retain as much access to each parent as possible.

You don't necessarily have to go to court to get this done

Parallel parenting may not feel like the ideal custody plan, but the benefits to the children are evident. They can enjoy their time with each parent without panicking or experiencing any anxiety that their parents will end up arguing. More than likely, the effect your dissolving marriage has on your children is one reason why you decided to divorce, and this parenting plan can help you continue to protect them from your high-conflict relationship with your ex-spouse.

You could go through the court in order to develop a workable parenting plan, and many couples do. But, if you can sit down together long enough to create your own plan, you may feel better about it. In the end, what matters is that you show your children you love them by taking your personal relationship out of your relationship with them.

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Commandments of Family Law

  1. The only truth your children need to know is that you both love them unconditionally, and that this isn't their fault.
  2. Take the high road — everyone wins when you do what's best for your kids.
  3. Negotiate but don't capitulate — if you are being pushed toward something detrimental for your children, stand your ground.
  4. You can only control yourself and how you respond. Don't engage.
  5. Do set up rules and responsibilities. Kids feel better when routine is continued.
  6. You are still their parent — don't be afraid to be one.
  7. Disneyland is in California, not in your home. Don't set up unreasonable expectations.
  8. It is not their job to take care of you. Repeat that to them. Often.
  9. Yelling is for sports — not court. Good lawyers strongly advocate without being disrespectful to opposing parties.
  10. Fair is a place you go to get cheese curds. Aside from that, nothing in life is fair.

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