Divorce Law

Divorcing couples typically work out a child custody agreement that involves their children splitting time between both parents.  The traditional child custody route designates one parent as the primary caregiver and includes visitation time for the other parent.  Depending on the case, this type of custody agreement could result in children going extended periods of time without seeing one of their parents.

Co-parenting is a different kind of child custody agreement that gives each parent a more equal share in the parenting and provides more stability for the children.

The following is an explanation of each type of child custody agreement.

Divorce Law

Traditional Child Custody

As described above, traditional child custody involves one parent becoming the primary caregiver with scheduled visitation for the other parent.  The primary caregiver lives with the children and usually makes more decisions regarding the children’s education and healthcare.  The visitation arrangement for the other parent depends on the individual case.  If the parents live a reasonable distance from each other, they can set up weekly visits.

However, if the parents live far away from each other, the visits will happen much less often throughout the year.  Young children especially can be deeply affected by long term separations from one of their parents.  This separation makes them more vulnerable to anxiety or depression which can affect behavior and performance in school.


Co-parenting is a child custody agreement meant to involve both parents equally and provide children with a more stable relationship with each parent.  In this arrangement, the parents cooperate in every aspect of raising the children and work out a visitation schedule that is more frequent.

The conditions of child custody are legal and spelled out in the divorce decree.  With co-parenting, parents can go beyond what is stated in the decree and form more relational parenting arrangements that include increased communication, more cooperation with decision making, and spending time together with their children.  The goal of co-parenting is to keep as much of the parental situation from the marriage as possible instead of splitting time between both parents on a regular schedule.  For divorced parents to pull off co-parenting, they need to have a level of forgiveness for each other and be willing to communicate more fully and openly.

Co-parenting arrangements can result in the following benefits:

  • Shared Decisions: Important decisions regarding the well-being of the children are made by both parents.
  • Access to Records: Both parents can access records for their children including school and medical records.
  • Convenient Scheduling: Co-parenting arrangements make visitation more convenient and schedule changes much easier to handle.
  • Focus on Parenting: Parents in this arrangement have more freedom to focus on raising their children.
  • Family Events: Good co-parenting arrangements allow parents to spend time with their children together for family events, dinners, vacations, and more.

Divorced Parents Meeting with Child Custody Attorney

What are 3 Types of Co-Parenting?

There are a few different ways divorced parents can go about a co-parenting arrangement.  The three main types of co-parenting include parallel parenting, conflicted co-parenting, and cooperative co-parenting.

  • Parallel parenting: Parallel parenting accounts for more than 50 percent of co-parenting cases. With this arrangement, each parent and household operate independently of the other.  There is little conflict, communication, or coordination of childrearing issues as each parent takes care of these things within their own household.  The parents are also emotionally disengaged from each other to make this arrangement work.  There is less likely to be consistency between households for the children with parallel parenting.
  • Conflicted co-parenting: Conflicted co-parenting, as the name suggests, is fraught with conflict between the parents that includes poor communication and the failure to disengage emotionally by one or both parents. The level of conflict in this arrangement can be very harmful to the children.
  • Cooperative co-parenting: Cooperative co-parenting is the most beneficial arrangement for the children but only accounts for about 25 percent of cases. With this arrangement, both parents work together to plan and coordinate and may even provide parental support for each other.  There is little to no conflict and parents can resolve any differences on their own.  Children in a cooperative co-parenting scenario are often more resilient to the effects of divorce.

What are the Disadvantages of Co-Parenting?

Even in the best co-parenting scenarios, it can be difficult for the children to adjust.  The children go back and forth between two different lifestyles and may not be able to adjust to both lifestyles.  This may cause children to pick a favorite if they adjust to one parent’s lifestyle easier than the other.

The following also make co-parenting harder on the children:

  • Conflicting schedules: Divorced parents may have different schedules because of their jobs, and it can be difficult to change their schedules to make accommodations. Some parents must make changes to their professional schedules to make the arrangement work.
  • Disputes: Disputes between co-parents regarding life decisions force the children to have to make some choices which can be difficult and traumatizing for them. This makes it more difficult for children to cope with the divorce.

Who is Considered a Co-Parent?

The parents who are equally responsible for the care, upbringing, and socialization of the children are considered the co-parents.  Co-parenting is focused exclusively on providing care for the children and requires parental investment from both parents.  The parents in a co-parenting arrangement may be divorced, separated, or not living together but are still responsible for the care and upbringing of the children.

What are Examples of Co-Parenting?

The goal of co-parenting is to have both parents play an active role in the lives of the children following a divorce or separation.  Co-parents must be able to communicate and compromise to create the best possible situation for the children.

The following are some examples of how parents can make co-parenting work:

  • Follow similar routines at each parent’s home to create stability.
  • Communication and planning between parents for consistency in drop-offs, pickups, and holidays.
  • Implement similar rules and disciplinary measures.
  • Avoid displaying conflict in front of the children such as fighting and arguing.
  • Avoid saying negative things about the other parent in front of the children and make sure other family members do the same.

Joint Custody Agreements

Divorce Attorneys Schaumburg IL

While there are some benefits to a co-parenting agreement that are absent from traditional child custody agreements, that does not mean that co-parenting is the best option in every case.  Successful co-parenting arrangements require the cooperation of both parents which may be difficult or impossible if the marriage was especially bitter or abusive, or if the parents live too far from each other.  In these cases, a more traditional joint custody agreement may work out better.

Work with a Child Custody Attorney

If you are going through a divorce that involves a child custody dispute, contact Allen Gabe Law, P.C. to talk to a family law attorney.  Our child custody attorneys can help you and your spouse come up with a child custody arrangement in the best interest of your children.

You can reach us at (847) 241-5000, Ext 121 to speak with child custody lawyers who have helped people in Schaumburg, Palatine, Arlington Heights, and other northwest Chicago suburbs.


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