Types of Co-Parenting Relationships
There are basically three types of co-parenting relationships. The most prevalent is parallel co-parenting in which each parent is basically disengaged from the other but is active in parenting. The relationship is characterized by minimal cooperation with each other but no open conflict. Approximately 35% of divorced couples maintain this kind of relationship.
The second type of co-parenting is conflicted co-parenting, accounting for about 35% of divorced parents. This relationship is characterized by anger, control issues, and intense disagreement. Conflict is most likely due to the fact that one or two parties are not able to let go of the relationship.
The third type of co-parenting is cooperative co-parenting, occurring in approximately 30% of divorced couples. Parents coordinate their roles in the best interest of the child and retain a flexible and supportive relationship vis a vie each other’s parenting decisions.
Only the conflicted types of parental relationship usually produce negative consequences for the adjustment of children. The more frequent the conflict, the more damage to the child. If a parallel relationship involves two parents who are actively involved with the children, then there are little, if any, adjustment problems and children tend to behave like they do with cooperative parenting.
Most parallel parenting couples eventually become more cooperative as the wounds of divorce heal. This takes approximately two to three years to evolve. However, this is not the case with high conflict parents. I had a client who was battling with his ex-wife 20 years after their divorce.
A major concern with working with a high conflict client is the relatively more frequent presence of drug or alcohol abuse, moderate to severe mental illness, and domestic violence. With high conflict parents, parenting plans must focus on safety concerns for the children. The use of a parent coordinator is highly recommended. They are trained to screen for each of the above problems. They can organize a team of professionals to address all of the above issues.