Parenting after divorce: Which method fits your situation?

While most divorcing parents understand they need to put their kids’ best interests first, maintaining a relationship with an ex-spouse can create a dilemma. That’s especially true when infidelity or neglect was present during the marriage.

Parents who work together for an amicable divorce usually set a civil tone for their future parenting relationship where flexibility and understanding exist. But contentious and bitter divorces often lead to both parties wanting as little as possible to do with each other.

The two typical types of parenting after marriage

Conflicts between ex-spouses can be damaging for children. So, both parents’ goal should be to minimize conflict while remaining positive influences in their children’s lives. There are two models to draw from when determining the parenting path forward:

  • Co-parenting: In this style, parents still get along and make decisions together. While some conflict may still exist, it’s not enough to destroy mutual respect, flexibility and both parties remain committed to solving problems as a family. In many cases, co-parents attend family events together.
  • Parallel parenting: The other extreme is when parents rarely communicate, and their kids live in two parallel households. The custody order and parenting agreement mostly dictate the nature of the relationship. While it’s likely not a great situation, it may be the best way to protect their kids from harmful conflict.

Post-divorce parenting is rarely black and white

Most ex-spouses fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. The challenge is finding where you and your ex fit on the spectrum. To help you determine the answer, consider these questions:

  • Do I want contact with my ex-spouse?
  • How much contact can I tolerate?
  • Is working together for our kids’ sake possible despite negative feelings for my ex?
  • If serious conflicts exist, what would it take to create a peaceful environment for our kids?

Detailed parenting plans help avoid conflict

Psychologists say that one parent leans toward co-parenting in most cases while the other is usually more suited for parallel parenting. However, sometimes the differences aren’t so vast that they can’t find a happy medium to make things work peacefully.

Regardless of where you fit on the spectrum, one of the best things you can do for post-divorce parenting is drafting a detailed parenting plan. This document should spell out how and when each parent will spend time with their kids, and how decisions are made over medical, educational and other vital issues.