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Down to the Basics – Defining Co-parenting

Regardless of whether the two parents were legally married or not, you go through the process of ‘uncoupling’ and restructuring the family.
(2 min 16 sec read)

Dave Chartier
A single co-parenting dad, a freelance writer and former syndicated dad blogger with work published in USA Today, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

For those of you who are divorced with joint custody and a shared parenting time schedule in place, the legal definition of ‘co-parenting’ may sound a bit familiar,

“…coparenting is a process where two parents work together to raise a child even though they are divorced or separated and no longer live together. An example of coparenting is when a divorced mother and father share legal and physical custody of their child.”1

In basic terms co-parenting is when two people (man/woman, woman/woman, man/man) who are parents share the responsibility of raising a child or children together. Through this process, there is generally an effort to ensure a stable environment, good education, and routines with similar standards of reward and discipline.

The outcome is the child enjoying the comfort of a stable close relationship with each parent. Regardless of whether the two parents were legally married or not, you go through the process of ‘uncoupling’ and restructuring the family. By keeping the children in the center they benefit greatly from the structure, love, and attention they will continue to get. Divorce and separation can be a painful experience for your child but then the family restructures and finds a new rhythm. By continuing to give your child the best of both of you, they will grow to appreciate you both for years to come.

Understanding there are vastly different dynamics and outcomes when couples call it quits, here are three basic types of co-parenting:

  1. Cooperative co-parenting – is the best scenario in the batch. It is when the parents have put their differences aside and put the health, happiness, and what is best for the children first. This implies tight coordination and a high level of communication regarding managing schedules, house rules, homework, parenting rules, and discipline.
  2. High-conflict co-parenting – the scenario illustrates when one parent is not able, or uninterested or perhaps too difficult to put the well-being of the children first. Generally speaking, high conflict co-parenting is characterized by one or both co-parents undermining each other while the child or children are stuck in the middle of the conflict sometimes being expected to choose sides. As you can imagine the outcome is not ideal for the child and they will suffer the most.
  3. Parallel Parenting – is a passive-aggressive version of a conflicted style with one or both parents not communicating parenting strategies, parenting styles or details therein. This style is statistically, most common, with the child usually playing the part of the messenger. This style opens the door to kids manipulating both parents since they can easily play one parent against the other.


Co-parenting definition |

For Better or Worse: Divorce Reconsidered | E. Mavis Hetherington PhD. and John Kelly

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