According to family therapist Chautè Thompson, LMHC, co-parenting is collaborating in raising a child with another parent in a way that focuses on what is best for the child. The most common example of co-parenting happens in the wake of a breakup, separation, or divorce of a romantic partnership, but the term can also be used to describe any two individuals jointly raising a child, even if they are not necessarily the biological parents or have not been romantically involved, such as a single parent raising a child with a grandparent or other relative. Co-parenting can be informal or legally formalized through a co-parenting custody agreement or parenting plan.
Co-parenting requires flexibility, patience, open and consistent communication, and a willingness on the part of both parents to negotiate, compromise, and be resilient because you won’t always get your way. This can be especially difficult to manage when a romantic relationship with the other parent ends, especially when the relationship ends badly. However, if you and your co-parent are on sufficiently decent terms, then co-parenting can yield many benefits.
“Healthy co-parenting looks different for different families. However, the picture of a healthy co-parenting relationship is having both parents present for the big things, i.e., sporting events, school events, birthday parties, etc.,” licensed family therapist Jodie Commiato, LMFT, tells mbg. “Finding ways to continue to participate despite the past is key” to establishing healthy and collaborative co-parenting partnerships.