If you have children and are going through a divorce, it is most likely that you will be managing a joint custody situation after you have finished the divorce. Even if you are no longer married to the person you produced children with, you will still be parenting with him or her for some time to come.
Particularly if one of the spouses has a personality disorder, joint parenting can be a challenge. For this reason, some families benefit from parallel parenting.
How is this different from co-parenting?
Co-parenting involves the parents coming together for the benefit of the child. For instance, even if the parents do not get along they will be able to put their feelings aside long enough to throw a joint birthday party or go to a dance recital. In some circumstances, the parents may get along well enough to bring new partners to these events.
With parallel parenting, the parents are never in the same place at the same time. So, for example, the parents may decide to throw two completely separate birthday events for the child. One parent may go to the dance recital and the other parent may attend the post-dance recital pizza party.
How does this help?
Separating the parents from each other as much as possible helps shield the child from whatever the conflict between the parents is. The idea behind joint parenting is to give the child equal exposure to his or her parents. Removing the conflict is in the best interest of everybody involved.
Additionally, successful parallel parenting can indeed graduate to a more traditional co-parenting arrangement after some time. However, some families find that a permanent parallel parenting arrangement is best for everybody.