2 Paths For Co-Parenting

Parallel Parenting v. Cooperative Parenting

By Tiffany McFarland of Cordell & Cordell, P.C.

Imagine yourself on a set of train tracks, the outside rails are both going in the same direction but they will never touch; this is the concept of parallel parenting.

Now imagine yourself, on a four lane highway, two lanes are always going in the same direction and sometimes the travelers will cross into your lane and you will cross into their lane; this illustrates the concept of cooperative parenting.

These two approaches each offer their take on the important art of raising strong, healthy children.


Cooperative Parenting
Commonly, the goal for co-parenting is cooperative parenting.  Cooperative parenting is used by parents that have a relationship in which conflict is low and parents can effectively communicate about their children. 

Cooperative parents agree on most parenting values and have few arguments about their children’s lives.  Cooperative parenting involves efficient, clear and open communication, a level of trust in each other and insight into respecting that each parent brings a perspective to parenting issues. 

Under a cooperative parenting approach, both parents strive for consistency in the two households, parents keep each other current on all important medical and school events and make decisions as equal parents.  Cooperative parenting involves having an efficient blend of business and caring for each other as parents.  

Parallel Parenting
Unfortunately, not all parents can cooperate and their relationship involves a high level of conflict.  However, the level of conflict can be reduced if the parents engage in parallel parenting. 

Parallel parenting is a process of parenting next to one another because you are unable to parent together.  Parallel parenting allows the parents to parent separately.  The parents can disengage and build a business-like relationship.  The parents have two very different households with separate routines and there is no obligation to work towards the same habits.  The parents are not obligated to share in activities and communicate only in writing or email about topics of extreme importance.  Because you are not communicating about minor things regarding your child you will not argue over things that have always led to conflicts in the past and you will not get into debates about the parenting plan or about the other’s parenting style. 

Parallel parenting assumes that communication is poor; there is competition between parents, there is a lack of trust, no tolerance for differences and lack of insight into the healing process.  Parallel parenting involves a specific, detailed and concrete parenting plan.

Children tend to fare best when parents can be cooperative in their parenting style.  However, if you are not at that level you can work towards cooperative parenting by accepting the fact there is more than one way to parent, by being less rigid and by being more accepting of the other parent and always remember to do your best job of parenting when your child is with you.


Tiffany A. McFarland is a Senior Attorney and Litigation Manager with Cordell & Cordell, P.C. in the Overland Park, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri offices. Ms. McFarland practices exclusively in the area of domestic relations.

Tiffany is licensed in the state of Missouri and the state of Kansas and is certified as a Guardian ad Litem.

Read more about Tiffany McFarland.

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