What is Parallel Parenting?

4 Jun 2024 | Simone McGrath
child reading the bible

Table of Contents

Parallel parenting  is a child arrangement where each parent has equal rights and responsibilities for their children, but they do things their own way and have minimal amounts of contact with each other. It is often suggested as an alternative to co-parenting,

For example, they might attend an equal number of doctor’s appointments, school meetings and sports competitions, but they do so separately.

Parallel parenting is best suited for high-conflict families or cases involving domestic abuse. It may be recommended by lawyers, mediators or the court to minimise tension in the family and provide an alternative to drawn-out court battles over child arrangements.

Why choose parallel parenting?

There are several reasons why parents may choose parallel parenting over traditional co-parenting:

  • Parents operate independently of each other, making their own decisions regarding the children’s activities, schedules, discipline and other aspects of parenting without interference or influence from the other parent.
  • Minimal communication is required, which can be less stressful and emotionally draining for everyone if the parents have a tumultuous relationship.
  • The children know that the rules are different in each parent’s home, which can provide a sense of stability in their separate homes and prevent a situation where the children feel like they have to choose sides.
  • It is a structured approach that clearly defines the rights and responsibilities of each parent, reducing the potential for conflict and confusion.
  • Both parents are able to stay involved in their children’s lives without having to interact with each other regularly.
  • It emphasises on the importance of putting the children’s well-being first, rather than focusing on parental conflicts and disagreements.

Who makes decisions in parallel parenting?

While parallel parents do their own thing for day-to-day parenting duties, the law says that major parenting decisions must be exercised jointly by all parents with parental responsibility. This may include major medical, religious or educational decisions, such as where the children go to school, as well as decisions to travel abroad or changing a child’s name.

The parents must still agree on those major decisions, or seek the court’s intervention if they cannot agree. In these cases, parallel parents can choose to use a third party mediator or seek legal assistance to help facilitate decision-making.

Does parallel parenting need a legal agreement?

Parallel parenting does not necessarily require a legal parenting plan, but it is highly recommended to have one in place. Unlike co-parenting where the relationship between the adults is co-operative and amicable, the goal of parallel parenting is to minimise interactions and disputes between the parents. A detailed plan ensures that all expectations and boundaries are laid out on the table.

The parenting plan therefore needs to be drawn up carefully and specifically so there is no room for ambiguity. It may include quite rigid details on:

  • Communication protocols
    • The method, frequency and purpose for communicating about the children.
    • Using email, text or an app instead of phone calls to avoid conflict.
    • How you will share important information about the children’s needs.
  • Contactand handover
    • The schedule for when the children will be with each parent, including holidays, school breaks and special occasions.
    • Start and end times of contact.
    • Specific dates, times and locations for exchanges.
    • How cancellation of contact will be handled.
  • Decision making
    • Procedures for consulting on major decisions (e.g. school places).
    • How to resolve conflicts if they arise.
  • Household rules
    • Guidelines for routines, discipline and daily care of the children.
    • Who will attend school events, medical appointments etc.
    • Arrangements for visiting wider family members.
  • Financial Matters
    • Child maintenance and other financial obligations.
    • Paying for child-related expenses such as school uniforms and phones.
    • Limits on big-ticket expenses (e.g. school trips, expensive presents)
    • How financial decisions will be made together.

When parallel parenting plans fall down, it’s often because they are not specific enough to avoid one parent wriggling out of their responsibilities. An experienced family solicitor can help ensure that all the bases are covered and that the plan is compatible with the best interests of the children.

Getting support for parallel parenting

Parallel parenting can be an effective way to reduce family conflict when direct co-parenting is not feasible. But the transition and new dynamics may require adjustment. Useful support may include:

  • Legal advice on creating an initial parallel parenting plan.
  • Parenting classes for dealing with high-conflict situations.
  • Family therapy or mediation to improve communication and cooperation between parents.
  • Tools like Whatsapp to structure and record communications.
  • Talking to other single parents for practical advice and moral support.

A parallel parenting plan can be the best long-term approach for some families, but other times it’s only needed for a short period while you get through an especially difficult stage. Parallel parenting can give everyone the time and space they need to work towards a more cooperative co-parenting relationship in the future.

To speak with one of our family solicitors, contact us by:

  • Filling in our online enquiry form; or
  • Calling us on 020 7485 8811

Share this article


Speak to us about Parallel Parenting

For a free initial conversation call 020 7485 8811

Email us Send us an email and we’ll get back to you

    Related InsightsVIEW ALL

    1. parent and child

      What is Early Neutral Evaluation?

      Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) is a form of Non-Court Dispute Resolution where the separated couple invite a neutral third party...

      Read more
    2. green house

      How Does Divorce Affect Our Mortgage?

      Can you keep a joint mortgage after divorce? From a mortgage lender’s perspective your divorce does not affect your...

      Read more
    3. path into a forest

      What is Financial Disclosure in Divorce?

      A divorce ends your marriage but it doesn’t end your financial ties to your former spouse. During the divorce...

      Read more
    4. couple sitting apart

      What is a Clean Break Order?

      Is It Best to Have a Clean Break Order in Divorce? Couples often say they want a “clean break” after...

      Read more
    5. Divorce

      Court reduces Wife’s award by £20 million

      The biggest “Divorce Cut” in legal history Court of Appeal judges have just made history by reducing the divorce award...

      Read more
    6. man with child

      Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

      Can You Co-Parent With a Narcissist? Co-parenting involves two divorced or separated parents working together to raise their children. This...

      Read more
    7. 31.5.2024

      Can I move with my children?

      Am I allowed to relocate with the children within England and Wales? Relocating within England and Wales, even if this...

      Read more
    8. co-parenting

      What is Co-Parenting And Is It Right for...

      There is no single approach to parenting your children after a divorce or separation. How you and your ex decide...

      Read more
    9. Marriage rings

      Settlements In Short Marriages

      A Marriage is a Marriage — Even If It’s Short and Childless When deciding who gets what in a divorce,...

      Read more
    10. parents with their child

      Can a Mother Stop a Father from Seeing...

      My ex-partner is telling me that I cannot see our children. Is this allowed? There is a common misconception that...

      Read more
    11. money

      Impact Of Extended Family Wealth On Divorce

      Can the Wealth of Extended Family Affect Your Divorce Outcomes? While there is no fundamental legal difference between a high-net-worth...

      Read more
    12. osbornes hampstead

      NCDR Rules Guide Couples Away From Court

      What is Non-Court Dispute Resolution (NCDR)? NCDR is the current buzz word in the family law world, following recent rule...

      Read more
    13. kings cross station clock

      8 Considerations for French Nationals Divorcing in England & Wales

      Introduction If you are a French national with connections to England and considering a divorce, both the French courts and...

      Read more
    14. Hampstead Hill Gardens

      Financial Remedy Orders Explained

      It is common for disagreements to arise over the finances during a divorce, even if you are on good terms...

      Read more
    15. Final Order

      What is a Final Order?

      The introduction of no-fault divorces brought about a number of changes to the divorce process in England and Wales. One...

      Read more
    16. field of flowers

      What is Parental Alienation?

      Sometimes, a child may turn against one of their parents due to the other parent’s manipulation or influence. This...

      Read more
    17. divorced man with empty wallet

      My spouse is going bankrupt. Will it affect...

      Divorce and Bankruptcy In 2022, more than 1 in 10 businesses reported a moderate-to-severe risk of insolvency. More than one in five (22%) of...

      Read more
    18. spousal maintenance

      What is Spousal Maintenance?

      Spousal Maintenance Spousal maintenance is a legal obligation to provide financial support to a former spouse after the marriage or...

      Read more
    19. most common reasons why couples get divorced

      The 6 Most Common Reasons Why Couples Get Divorced

      What are the most common reasons for divorce? Following the UK’s transition to a no-fault divorce system, couples no...

      Read more
    20. signing contract

      What is a Conditional Order?

      The introduction of no-fault divorces in England and Wales removed the need to assign blame for the breakdown of a...

      Read more
    21. man signing paperwork

      What is a consent order?

      Most divorcing couples agree on how their finances will be divided without going to court. A consent order is what...

      Read more
    22. child maintenance

      Child Maintenance for High Earners

      How much should be paid? When separating or divorcing parents cannot agree the amount of child maintenance to be paid, (...

      Read more
    23. 25.7.2023

      Parental Conduct and Child Arrangements

      The Role of Family Dynamics in Child Arrangement Cases In proceedings involving children, the parents should consider the impact their...

      Read more
    24. rubber stamp

      Approving Consent Order In High Value Divorce Case...

      The case of Bogolyubov v Bogolyubov The best course of action for divorcing couples is to agree on a financial...

      Read more