Keith B. Schulefand, Esq.
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Parenting in high conflict divorce

Parenting after a high conflict divorce can be a challenge, especially if there's still a lot of lingering hostility between you and your ex. For the sake of your children, it's important that you and your ex find a way forward.

Resentment, anger and a high degree of tension can get in the way of effective communication between exes. Parallel parenting provides a way for exes who are not able to communicate directly with each other to still effectively parent and put their children first.

Parallel Parenting

Parallel parenting is an appropriate style of parenting when there is a high degree of conflict between parents after divorce. It's also suitable when one or both parents don't feel safe around the other.

In parallel parenting, both parents are involved in their children's lives but act independently from one another. The amount of contact and communication parents have with each other is limited, allowing them to disengage from one another while remaining close with their children.

Day-to-day parenting and decisions happen separately in each parent's household. Bigger decisions, regarding medical or education needs for example, are made by one or both parents as established in a parenting plan that is set up during the divorce process.

Parenting plan

To avoid or reduce potential conflict and establish clear expectations, a preemptive parenting plan is agreed to or ordered by the court and can be successful when parents commit to and respect its guidelines. Parents need to remember that they can only control their own actions and household, not those of the other parent. An effective parenting plan will address a range of issues including:

  • A non-negotiable parenting schedule
  • Agreeing to non-direct communication only (email or a written parenting notebook)
  • Using a third party, if and when communication is necessary
  • Not using children as messengers for communication

Conflict is common after a divorce but this approach to parenting shields children from animosity and allows a child to build solid and healthy relationships with both parents. Kids can only benefit when parents vow to put their children first and not allow their own hostility towards each other to interfere with their ability to parent responsibly and effectively.

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