What is Coparenting:
Many couples that are divorcing or separating have not fully explored the types of co-parenting options that are available to them. Regardless of whether you were ever married or not, if you are separating with children, you will always be parents. I like to say when mediating, parents get to think bigger than a judge; they get to think like parents. There is a range of co-parenting models, and the most detailed, age-appropriate, and family-focused models come from the mediated divorce model. The courts do not have the amount of time you can take in mediation to work out what is best for your family.
Couples more familiar with the litigated model of divorce often think all that is involved is establishing a weekly and holiday schedule and child support. Still, there are so many more details to be worked out to ensure your co-parenting experience and, even more importantly, your children’s experience of growing up with divorced parents is not a life-long trauma but a respectful, cooperative re-organization of the family.
What Are The Most Common Co-parenting Plans?
In California, there are several different co-parenting models that couples often use to generate their personalized co-parenting plan when working with a mediator. Here are the most common options and the differences between them:
Coparenting is a collaborative approach where parents actively most often agree to make joint decisions regarding their children's parenting time with each parent, education, caregivers, extra-curricular activities, religious and/or language training, where they will live, health providers, and discretionary medical choices and how all the costs of raising the children will be shared. They establish systems for clear communication, and they design a parenting plan that supports a cooperative and coordinated effort to ensure consistency and stability for their children. Co-parents often share parenting time and responsibilities, such as school activities, healthcare decisions, and extracurricular involvement, equally, but an equal timeshare is not a requirement of a cooperative co-parenting plan. This approach aims to prioritize the children's needs for frequent and consistent contact with each parent so as to ensure secure attachment and a healthy bond with each parent while balancing the respective work or re-careering demands of the parents. It is a holistic approach where the child is in the center, not in the middle of a parental tug-of-war.
2. Parallel Parenting
Parallel parenting is designed for high-conflict parents or when communication between parents is challenging and potentially toxic for the children to witness. In this approach, the parents disengage from each other and minimize direct contact. The exchanges of the children are without contact. For example, one parent drops the children at school, and the other parent pick’s them up from school on exchange days. Each parent assumes responsibility for specific aspects of their children’s lives during their parenting time. Parallel parenting does not require as much cooperation over the children’s experience in each home and discourages micromanaging each other’s home unless there are safety concerns. Ideally, this is a temporary plan intended to minimize parental interaction that is unhealthy for the children, but ideally, the parents will work on healing and be able to gradually establish a more cooperative parenting style. Parallel parenting aims to reduce conflict and promote stability for the children by limiting interactions between the parents. Most parents choosing to parallel parent will use communication tools like Our Family Wizard or Talking Families to track and monitor their co-parenting conversations, schedule modifications, and schedule vacation and special time with the children. There is also a wide range of online and in-person co-parenting education programs to help parents gain a better understanding of how their co-parenting style may be negatively impacting their children.
3. Long-Distance Parenting:
Long-distance parenting refers to situations where one parent resides a significant distance from the children, and the parenting has to take place with the distance in mind. In such cases, the parent who does not live by or who is perhaps deployed or on a lengthy work assignment may have scheduled Facetime or set up online interactive play like a chess march with a child. He or she may have less physical parenting time, but it may still be at regular intervals, such as during school breaks. These types of plans need to be individualized and focused on age-appropriate demands of the child’s attention span to handle online communications. The agreed-upon use of technology for virtual communication is fundamental to the success of a long-distance parenting plan. Consistent communication and scheduled parenting time are crucial to maintaining a meaningful connection between the long-distance parent and the child, and this requires diligence on the part of each. Any long-distance parenting plan should consider the logistics of travel and how travel for parenting time will be paid for and if this is just a temporary solution to a temporary circumstance or if expectations need to be set for the long term.
Bird-Nesting also known as nesting, is a trending co-parenting arrangement where the children remain in the family home, and the parents take turns as lead or off-duty parents. Instead of the children moving between two different residences, the parents rotate in and out of the family home or even share one space but with clear boundaries. This approach aims to provide stability and minimize disruption for the children by keeping them in a familiar environment. It is typically a short-term plan. Because nesting requires significant cooperation and logistical planning between the parents, it works best when couples have a joint mindset and the assistance of a mediator skilled in co-parent planning.
It's important to note that these types of parenting plans are not specific to California and can be implemented in various jurisdictions. However, the legal requirements and specific guidelines for parenting plans may vary by state or country.
Apart from these approaches, parents can customize their parenting plans based on their unique circumstances and the needs of their children, particularly if they have adult children at home or special needs children. Parents who cannot mediate their parenting plan are left with the court to intervene and make decisions regarding custody and visitation on their behalf. We know that parents who mediate their parenting plans are far less likely ever to go to court and far more likely to raise children who learn to thrive even though their parents divorced.
Laura McGee is an experienced divorce mediator and a certified co-parenting specialist with extensive training, experience, and knowledge; she works with divorcing parents throughout California and has a physical office in the Village of Carlsbad. Laura offers couples a complimentary Discovery Session. Book online now to learn more about building your unique nesting plan with the professional support and guidance of Laura McGee.