The Pros & Cons of Parallel Parenting

Asian parents pulling daughter's hands in different directions standing indoor

In mediation, it is common that couples come into the process not knowing the difference between, or the pros and cons, of ‘co-parenting’ and ‘parallel parenting.’

Asian parents pulling daughter's hands in different directions standing indoor

For one, most couples that come to see us are fairly amicable. Therefore, there is no need for parallel parenting, so the topic is never broached at all.

The harder situation is when a couple has never heard of it, and don’t understand the difference between the two– yet, they realize it’s what they need in order to survive as parents living in separate homes, moving forward post-divorce.

So, to begin this topic, I want to clarify each style of parenting.

What is Co-Parenting?

Co-parenting is a collaborative approach to raising children after divorce or separation, where both parents work together to make important decisions and provide consistent care for their children.

In co-parenting, parents communicate regularly, share parenting responsibilities, and work towards a common goal of providing a stable and supportive environment for their children. They often attend events and activities together, make joint decisions about education and healthcare, and aim to maintain a respectful and cooperative relationship.

What is Parallel Parenting?

Parallel parenting, on the other hand, is a strategy often employed when parents have significant conflict or difficulty communicating effectively.

In this approach, parents disengage from each other as much as possible while still remaining actively involved in their children’s lives. They create a clear and detailed parenting plan that outlines specific responsibilities, schedules, and guidelines for each parent. The goal is to minimize direct contact and interaction between the parents to reduce conflict and tension, which can be detrimental to the children’s well-being.

Even when one party tries to institute control over the other party’s parenting time with the children, I do not automatically veer them towards Parallel parenting. We may briefly discuss it, but I do not deep dive into the reality of parallel parenting unless it is very clear the couple will need to engage in this sort of parenting to maintain safe boundaries around the children. While it serves a purpose (to protect the children from the toxic relationship their parents are in), it is not the ideal way to share the job of parenting children. We have included the pros and cons of parallel parenting below, to help you get a sense of how this style of parenting may impact the family.

Pros & Cons of Parallel Parenting


Reduces Conflict:
Parallel parenting can significantly reduce conflict between parents. Less interaction means fewer opportunities for disagreements.

Stability for Children:
It provides a structured, consistent environment for children, as each parent follows their predetermined role and responsibilities.

Clear Boundaries:
The parenting plan sets clear boundaries, which can help minimize confusion and misunderstandings between parents.

Emotional Well-being:
It can protect the emotional well-being of both parents by reducing the stress and hostility often associated with high-conflict co-parenting situations.

Maintains Legal Obligations:
Parallel parenting allows both parents to fulfill their legal obligations and responsibilities as parents without unnecessary confrontation.


Limited Communication:
Reduced communication between parents may make it challenging to address unforeseen issues or adapt to changing circumstances.

Children May Feel Torn:
Children might feel caught in the middle, as they have limited exposure to cooperative parenting, potentially affecting their sense of security.

Less Flexibility:
The strict adherence to parenting plans can limit the flexibility needed to accommodate children’s evolving needs and schedules.

Long-term Impact:
While it may be necessary in high-conflict situations, long-term parallel parenting may prevent the development of a more cooperative co-parenting relationship in the future.

Maintaining two separate households with distinct rules and routines can be resource-intensive, both financially and logistically.

Tailored Family Law Solutions

As a professional family law mediator in San Diego, my role is to help parents find the most suitable approach to their unique situation, whether it’s co-parenting or parallel parenting.

It’s important to consider the best interests of the children, and balance the advantages and disadvantages of each approach while promoting empathy and understanding between parents.

Ultimately, there are pros and cons to both co-parenting and parallel parenting, but the decision should align with the family’s specific circumstances and their commitment to providing a stable and loving environment for their children. It can be extremely difficult to let go of the control when it comes to parenting, especially if you have been the main parental figure for the majority of your kids’ lives. However, this is part of living in two households. Each parent is given the leeway to parent how they see fit (of course, so long as the children are safe and adequately cared for).

It is important to understand that when the children are not in your home, you cannot control how they are parented. The silver lining is that many parents who were not the primary caregiver throughout the marriage, may not have felt there was space for him or her to participate in the way they may have wanted. And now that he or she does have the space to parent, they may do an excellent job! Try letting go a little bit and give your co-parent the space to be the parent they can be. They might just surprise you!

For an expert family law consultation and a plan that considers your family’s unique needs, Contact West Coast Family Mediation Center today.

by: Jennifer Segura

Jennifer Segura with west coast family mediation center
Recent Posts