When Co Parenting Is Impossible
Coparenting isn’t always the best choice for raising happy, healthy kids after divorce.
As idyllic as many divorce professionals make coparenting sound for parents who don’t live together, sometimes it’s just impossible to do.
Some reasons co parenting is impossible include:
- A parent is actively abusing alcohol, drugs or another substance
- A parent is incarcerated
- A parent is violent or has threatened violence against an adult, child, pet or property
- One parent has active restraining orders against the other parent
- A parent has an inappropriate sexual behavior or other acting out behavior
- A parent neglects or has abandoned their child (children)
- A parent has a history of frequent, unexpected moves or plans to move out of the area
- A parent is actively alienating their child/children from the other parent
- There’s simply too much friction between the parents to communicate at the level necessary for coparenting.
But just because you can’t enter into a coparenting relationship with your child or children’s other parent, that doesn’t mean that your divorce will destroy your children. What’s most important for your children to adjust well to your divorce is that you adjust well to it because your emotions are contagious.
When coparenting is impossible, you do have other options. You can use parallel parenting or one parent can have sole custody.
Another form of shared parenting is parallel parenting. The biggest difference between coparenting and parallel parenting is the level of communication. Parallel parenting doesn’t require the consistent communication that coparenting does. (Although communication about the health, safety and welfare of the kids is still necessary.)
Parallel parenting benefits the kids when coparenting won’t work because they’re exposed to less parental conflict and they can still have positive relationships with both of their parents.
In order for parallel parenting to work, the parenting plan must be VERY specific so there are no gray areas. This need for specificity along with the changing needs of the children usually leads to frequent modifications of the parenting plan.
But when co parenting is impossible, parallel parenting is a great alternative for both parents to participate in raising their children.
The other option is for one parent to have sole custody. In rare cases, one parent will have sole legal and physical custody of the child or children while the other may have visitation. When sole custody is part of the divorce agreement, it’s more common for one parent to have sole physical custody while both parents share legal custody.
Sole legal custody means that one parent will have full responsibility and right to make major decisions about the child’s or children’s well-being. These decisions include religious and moral development along with educational and healthcare decisions.
Sole physical custody means that the child or children live with one parent with visitation by the other parent – unless the court decides that visitation is not in the best interest of the child or children.
Regardless of the parenting situation, your kids will thrive when they feel safe and deeply loved.
So, is it possible to raise happy, healthy kids after divorce when coparenting is impossible? Absolutely. You’ll just need to put in the extra work in creating a parenting plan that clearly spells out what parenting means now, work through all of your emotional turmoil from the divorce, and LOVE your kids.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are looking for support advice about co-parenting. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.