Parallel parenting involves parents who have shared custody over their kids but refuse to live together in the same room or communicate with each other. This is usually the case if parents are in high conflict and feel that their partner is too controlling or intrusive. Although this parenting approach is not ideal, it works for some disputed parents.
Indeed, raising a child is difficult if couples have different parenting styles with clashing ideals. Moreover, these couples prefer not to go through divorce proceedings. These proceedings typically include paying a filing fee cost for divorce or annulment and property settlement or spousal maintenance proceedings.
Parallel parenting is also different from co-parenting. Couples who co-parent are able to proactively make major decisions for their children despite their feelings for each other. They may have an easier time making long-term plans for their children while remaining respectful of each other’s comments and ideals. However, not all parents may be able to co-parent amicably.
Children and the Family Law Act 1975
The Family Law Act 1975 is the Act that governs family law matters in Australia. One of the most important laws here is Section 60CC which outlines the child’s best interests. According to Section 60CC, the two primary considerations of the child’s best interests are their right to:
- Be protected from any form of harm, abuse or neglect
- Have a meaningful relationship with their parents, relatives, and any other significant people in their life.
Children should receive a proper and substantial upbringing from their parents regardless of divorce or separation. While parallel parenting is acceptable in Australia, this may pose a lot of risk to the child’s best interests. However, this type of parenting is achievable for parents as long as they:
- Focus on the parent they want to become
- Disengage emotionally and socially with their former partner to avoid conflict but maintain healthy communication between parents
- Know what is in their control such as their parenting time
The Importance of Parental Responsibility
Parental responsibility allows parents to have the power to make long-term decisions for their children. Courts assume that parents have equally shared parental responsibility over their children even after divorce or separation. However, courts may grant sole parental responsibility in extreme circumstances like drug abuse or family violence.
How To Make A Successful Parallel Parenting Arrangement Work
1. Write Down a Parenting Agreement
It’s important that parents write down their agreements whether in a parenting plan or in a parenting order. A parenting plan is an out-of-court parenting arrangement that ex-couples may draft if they plan to separate or divorce. It’s important to note that a parenting plan is not legally binding so some separated parents may breach the plan without hesitation.
If parents want to agree to legally enforce their parenting plan, they may go to court and apply for consent orders. A consent order can aid ex-couples to formalise their parenting arrangements to. Once the court approves the parenting plan, they may turn them into legally binding consent orders.
What if parents continue to disagree on parallel parenting model? They may then opt for court proceedings and let the judge decide on the parenting arrangements necessary for the child. Courts will always follow the child’s best interests when making a parenting order for disputed parents. We have published a blog about family court order breaches.
2. Strictly Follow Child Changeovers
Parallel parenting will involve two parents who are living separately and who may have trouble agreeing on child changeovers. It may help if parents write down details about when and where the changeover will take place in their parenting arrangements. For instance, Parent A agrees to drive the kids to Parent B’s house at 9 am every Sunday for child changeover purposes.
3. Decide Who Will Attend School Events
A lot of disputed parents may continue to fight over who attends certain school events like graduations, school plays, or parent-teacher meetings. Couples may list this down and decide who gets to attend a school event. For instance, ex-couples may ask teachers to have separate parent-teacher meetings for them. The ex-couple may also decide on who attends the graduation ceremony and the other parent will take the child out for a meal.
4. Make Provisions for Disputes With the Other Parent
Ex-couples who opt for a parallel parenting style may have conflicts since they have different parenting styles and values. However, good communication and comprehension can help disputed couples regardless of the parenting style they are using. Provisions for disputes in parenting plans may also help parents handle disputes effectively such as:
- How will each parent address their concern and communicate effectively to the other parent? Will they use emails, phone calls, chat messages?
- Which mode of communication will they use to talk to each other about their concerns?
- How will each parent handle consequences if one parent doesn’t follow the parenting plan?
- Will the couple opt for court procedures or consult with a parenting coordinator (mediator)
In co-parenting, you discuss issues that arise with the children and agree on a solution together. The couple may both attend their children’s school events and extracurricular activities. This method of shared parenting involves a lot of communication and working together between ex partners.
Parallel Parenting: Case Example
In the case of Palmerin & Parcell (2020), Ms Parcell and Mr Parcell struggled with communication issues. Their parenting styles were different and there was a high level of animosity between them. The level of parental conflict was high and even the children wanted them to stop fighting. They did not wish to be included in their disputes.
The judge saw that both parents had good parenting skills in their own ways, however, it was causing distress to their children. Moreover, the judge saw that they have yet to learn to prioritise their children’s needs over their own. Hence, the judge ordered the parents to follow a parallel parenting style which required the parents to:
- Cease any discussions regarding their long-term decision making for their children unless both have agreed to it in writing
- Only communicate through letters or emails
- Not enter into each other’s homes
- Let their children start communication with the non-resident parent
Seeking Legal Advice About Parenting Styles
Separating or divorcing couples should make sure that they seek legal advice whenever they decide on their parenting styles. JB Solicitors is a family law firm that is dedicated to helping disputed couples see what’s best for their children. Our mediation and arbitration services ensure that parents can amicably agree on their parenting arrangements for their children.
Contact a family lawyer today if you want to opt for parallel parenting for your family.