Shared parenting seems to be referred to regularly now in media reports about divorce and separation. In all cases that come before the Courts there will be a desire to do what’s best for the child or children involved, which is often shared care of the child. But what does this actually mean?
I often find that people take the term ‘shared parenting’ to mean that the care of the children is shared equally. This is not always the case and is obviously quite difficult with a seven-day week, thus producing a problem for any child to be completely ‘split down the middle’.
I find that shared care or shared parenting means different things to different people and of course every family is different and unique and is treated by the court as such. It is always the case that each family is treated having regard to their own circumstances and arrangements which suit one family may not necessarily suit another.
Therefore, there may on occasion still be a ‘shared care’ arrangement but the children may spend say five days with one parent and two with the other or four and three etc.
The point behind the term shared parenting is to emphasise to the parents that they share the care of their children.
When I first started working in family law more than 20 years ago it was much more common for the children to be treated as living with one parent and having contact with the other and at that time in my experience the amount of contact offered to the parent who did not live with the children was a relatively small amount.
This often led to a situation where one parent felt that this provided them with more ‘rights’ or even entitlement to the children than the other and was often the source of friction and contention. This is the reason for the court now wanting to promote words such as sharing and equality to reaffirm with both parents that both parents are indeed seen as equal in the eyes of the law.
There are no hard and fast rules as to the amount of time which a child should spend with each parent and one parent should not feel that they have any less entitlement to spend time with their children than the other.
Having watched the family court landscape from a front row seat for the last 20 years I have to say that I feel that the concept of shared parenting and shared care is a welcome change.
Divorce & family lawyer, Birmingham