For many, one good thing about summer vacation when you are a divorced parent is that, often, you will have less contact with your ex-spouse. There are fewer activities to discuss, there are fewer weekly schedules to adjust, and there are fewer issues that arise during the summer than during the school year. And yet, just like clockwork, around comes August and back-to-school time for children. That often means back-to-divorced-parents’- headaches with your ex.
When it comes to divorced-parenting headaches, what you need to remember is that the children should remain your focus; but you also need to do what you can do to make yourself as comfortable as possible in situations that arise. There is a difference between co-parenting and parallel parenting when you have joint legal custody. Co-parenting means you discuss many details of your children’s lives including trying to create similar rules at each house, similar bedtimes, etc. Parallel parenting, on the other hand, means that you and your ex make decisions together on major issues such as medical or educational issues, signing up for and attending open houses or extracurricular activities, but the communication between the parties is minimal and often only in writing and each parent parents at his/her house independently of the other parent.
So for example, if you don’t want to attend every basketball practice or dance class because your ex will be there half the time, you don’t have to go. If you think it will be easier to schedule separate parent/teacher conferences, then you should do so. You should do what you can to communicate respectfully with your ex, but you don’t have to put on a happy face and go to every single event if you don’t want to. You need to be mindful of your children’s activities but you also need to be mindful of your own boundaries. In this way, parallel parenting is a different alternative to co-parenting, but with many of the same attributes and goals of putting the children first.
Remember that both parallel parenting and co-parenting mean getting along for the sake of the children. It means working together for the best interest of the children. It does not mean being best friends, nor does it mean giving in to everything your ex-spouse requests. Being a good co-parent or parallel parent means being flexible when it is called for, and being calm and rational when you disagree. Back-to-school means changes for everyone, and there are times when disagreements may lead you to an impasse. At those times, talking to your attorney may help you determine what issues are worth fighting for, and which are better let go.