Co-parenting is a very common way to manage child custody after divorce. This is because joint custody is the most common custody situation in the United States today. The reason for this is children tend to do best if both parents are actively involved in raising them, even if the parents are not wed.
The problem is that in some situations, it is not good for parents to remain in contact with each other. For instance, one parent may have narcissistic tendencies or the relationship between the parents may be very bad. In this situation, parallel parenting is often a good alternative to co-parenting as it keeps the parents separated.
Is this different from co-parenting?
Yes, co-parenting and parallel parenting are distinct. Co-parenting typically involves the parents coming together in order to support their child in public. A common example would be parents throwing a birthday party for their children together and both parents attending.
With parallel parenting, both parents would not throw the birthday party. It would be more common for there to be two separate birthday parties. The parents may also divide other responsibilities. For instance, one parent may do everything having to do with sports, and the other parent may manage everything relating to religious education.
Who does this help?
The person it helps the most is the child. Particularly if your child is young, he or she likely wants to have contact with both you and the other parent. Parallel parenting allows the child equal exposure to both parents without putting the child in the center of your disagreements with your ex-spouse.