At the first International Conference on Shared Parenting, which took place last July, leading family and medical experts and practitioners sat down together to discuss ways in which they could bridge the gap between empirical evidence and socio-legal practice in relation to shared parenting.
The conference, which was organized by the International Council on Shared Parenting (ICSP), resulted in a list of six agreed key points and objectives, one of which was that courts should have the ability to make shared parenting orders. As we already have the power in the UK to make orders which amount to shared parenting, which we define as the sharing of rights and responsibilities in relation to a child, the suggestion may seem redundant. However, the implication may be that changing the name of such orders (which we assume would be flexible in relation to what kinds of contact and time would be prescribed), could help to change the current perceived culture surrounding contact. We add the full list of suggestions for you, below:
The conference arrived at the following six major areas of consensus:
1. There is a consensus that neither the discretionary best interests of the child standard nor sole custody or primary residence orders are serving the needs of children and families of divorce. There is a consensus that shared parenting is a viable post-divorce parenting arrangement that is optimal to child development and well-being, including for children of high conflict parents. The amount of shared parenting time necessary to achieve child well being and positive outcomes is a minimum of one-third time with each parent, with additional benefits accruing up to and including equal (50-50) parenting time, including both weekday (routine) and weekend (leisure) time.
2. There is consensus that “shared parenting” be defined as encompassing both shared parental authority (decision-making) and shared parental responsibility for the day-to-day upbringing and welfare of children, between fathers and mothers, in keeping with children’s age and stage of development. Thus “shared parenting” is defined as, “the assumption of shared responsibilities and presumption of shared rights in regard to the parenting of children by fathers and mothers who are living together and apart.”
3. There is a consensus that national family law should at least include the possibility to give shared parenting orders, even if one parent opposes it. There is a consensus that shared parenting is in line with constitutional rights in many countries and with international human rights, namely the right of children to be raised by both of their parents.
4. There is a consensus that the following principles should guide the legal determination of parenting after divorce: (1) shared parenting as an optimal arrangement for the majority of children of divorce, and in their best interests. (2) parental autonomy and self-determination. (3) limitation of judicial discretion in regard to the best interests of children.
5. There is a consensus that the above apply to the majority of children and families, including high conflict families, but not to situations of substantiated family violence and child abuse. There is a consensus that the priority for further research on shared parenting should focus on the intersection of child custody and family violence, including child maltreatment in all its forms, including parental alienation.
6. There is a consensus that an accessible network of family relationship centres that offer family mediation and other relevant support services are critical in the establishment of a legal presumption of shared parenting, and vital to the success of shared parenting arrangements.
So what do you think? Do you agree with all of these suggestions, some of them, or none at all?
Many thanks to Charles Pragnell for sharing this item with us.
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Richard Grenville said:
This is what should be the primary and over-riding consideration in Family Law proceedings as being demonstrably and measurably to the benefit of the child. .https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/homo-consumericus/201505/why-mothers-are-so-special
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Richard Grenville said:
As I’m sure you will have gathered from much of the above, Shared Parenting Groups are cover organisations for Father’s Rights groups.
Shared Parenting as described in the article completely disregard the research findings from anthropology, biology, and the Attachment Theories from Psychology for over a century.
The statement therefore that, “There is a consensus that neither the discretionary best interests of the child standard nor sole custody or primary residence orders are serving the needs of children and families of divorce.” is not therefore supported by careful consideration of those studies.
In short, the wealth of science on this matter does not favour Shared Parenting.
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Michael Robinson said:
Worth adding to this piece, for those unsure, that the courts in England and Wales CAN opt for shared living arrangements now. The provision was specifically included in the draft child arrangements order (CAP04) at paragraph 7. Some remain unsure as to whether the child arrangements order still allows for shared residence to be granted by the court… it does.
There remains no ‘presumption’ in law on shared parenting, but depending on the case circumstances, what you applied for, and which judge hears the case (and your arguments), it is a possibility… now. You’d apply via a C100 form, simply specifying you were seeking shared living arrangements within a child arrangements order. If you’re responding to the other parent’s application, you’d need to specify on the C7 Form you were seeking this outcome.
To remove a further confusion some hold, shared parenting, shared living arrangements etc, as far the courts are currently concerned, do not require an equal division of parenting time.
Thought it might be helpful for some readers to clarify these points.
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Richard Grenville said:
The science does not favour Shared Parenting, if the `Co-Parenting Experts’ did but know.
Michael Robinson said:
Of course it does. I’d prefer to go from the work of Professor Ann Buchanan and Dr Eirini Flouri, the Children’s Society, Dr MK Pruett, Parish, Bausermann, Laumann-Billings, Dr Daniel Nettle, and Professor Parkinson. All somewhat more independent and authoritative than a post on linkedin.
Michael Robinson said:
Also perhaps worth remembering that in the 2007 UN Report on Child Wellbeing in Developed Countries, the three countries with the highest level of child wellbeing had a presumption of shared parenting… while the UK did not, and came at the bottom of the league table. People tend to forget bits and bobs like this.
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Susan Estilow said:
This article is absolutely true! Judges and lawyers, falsely hide behind, “the best interest of the child”, when it should be a parents right to maintain an equal chance to spend time with their children and not just.to pay child suoport with minimal visitation. This takes away dignity from the father and his children. Father’s rights are human rights and children
also have the human right to spend as much
time with their children as possible. The
current judicial system and views on this are
long, long over due for change. The Courts
continue the adversarial positions of the
parties and keep bringing people back into
Court to fight for the rights they already
have.This makes lawyers rich and their is no
guarantee that even if you go into Court
before a Judge that anything will fairly be
resolved. To sum up, the best interest of
children is to be with both parents equally.
SHARED CUSTODY ORDERS are a human
right and parents know best how to raise their
children and the children need equal time with
both parents . 20 states in the United States
are alteady moving toward this. It needs to be
a Constitutional right because it is already a
God given right and responsibility that both
parents should play an equal role in raising
their children married or divorced.
Richard Grenville said:
Presumably therefore, you agree with the Senior Family Court judge who stated that even Paedophiles have the right to shared parenting of their children. And on the basis of other judicial rulings, that murderers (of the other parent), convicted child sex abusers, violent offenders, rapists, drug/ alcohol addicts, psychotic mental illness etc etc, should also be considered to be fit parents.
Many such people would not be permitted to work with other people’s children, but you consider it ok for them to be with their own children?.
Also in many cases the child protection authorities would have clear grounds for removing their children from their care, but do not do so when Family Courts have determined otherwise.
You appear to have a very rose-tinted view of parents who appear in Family Courts and that they are reasonable, rational people who simply want to determine the custody of their children and contact arrangements where they may have a slight difference of opinion. I’m afraid that’s is far from reality. Those parents who take their cases to Family Courts are those where either one or both, are not prepared to be reasonable and rational, where they have immense animosity even hatred of each other, where there has been brutal assaults on the other parent and children and the assailant wants to regain power and control over them or to punish the other parent for rejecting them, or where vengefulness is the primary motive, or simply as a means of evading payment of Child Support.
In such circumstances, the law treats children merely as `Goods & Chattels’ of the parents, and no more than inanimate objects and owned entirely by their parents, and to be shared between them on the basis of the clever arguments, tactics, and ploys employed by their legal counsel. This is all done in a psychopathic organisational culture, where empathy, compassion, and concern for the weak and vulnerable are banished.
The wishes and feelings of the children are similarly banished from consideration, after all children don’t really know what they want, do they?. Or they have been alienated by the other parent?. Or coached into making allegations of abuse?.
The Family Court system per se’ forces parents into an adversarial position and polarises their views so that animosity and enmity are heightened, when an atmosphere of conciliation and negotiation would be far preferable.
You obviously consider that parental rights are of sole, paramount, and inalienable importance and yet try to dress it up as being `in the best interests of the child’, a term which paradoxically you then condemn.
Do try to spend some time in Family Courts and watch these dramas and pantomimes unfold, and follow very much the same script, and ultimately see the children become the losers. Under shared parenting they become shuttlecocks and Ping-Pong children living out of backpacks, with different standards of care, different rules to follow, different levels of concern for their care and welfare, and other masses of inconsistencies causing them immense emotional and mental harms even in the rare circumstances where they do not suffer physical harms, and as one child has stated, I live in two houses, but I don’t have a home!”.
But, if you think that shared parenting is such a good idea, you at least have several similarly minded people who support you and who place parental rights as the absolute and inalienable determinant in such matters and that children are mere parental possessions and no more than that.
Telling article by Dr Linda Nielsen that skewers the “shared parenting is about parents’ rights” gobbledygook peddled by equal parenting antagonists.
Dr Linda Nielsen, is a professor of women’s studies and adolescent psychology at Wake Forrest University
Column: Shared parenting: preventative medicine for kids
By Dr. Linda Nielsen
February 23, 2015
Columnist and family psychologist John Rosemont recently wrote that when deciding contested custody cases, judges should avoid equal parenting outcomes and instead give one parent primary custody with the other parent receiving limited parenting time (“Custody should focus on fairness to kids,” LJS, Feb. 20.)
Mr. Rosemont argued that equal parenting arrangements were based on the best interests of the parents rather than the best interests of the children.
Mr. Rosemond is absolutely correct that, when their parents separate, children have “rights.” More importantly, children have “needs” that adults should ensure are met — especially if those adults happen to be mental health professionals or judges.
Do too many hurt and angry parents put their own “rights” and needs ahead of their children’s? Unfortunately, yes. Some parents indulge their “need” to punish the other parent by restricting their parenting time even at the expense of their children’s physical and mental health. Even worse, these parents are often aided by mental health professionals and judges who are not familiar with the research — or who have been misled by poorly informed seminar speakers and writers.
Many of us are upset with parents who feel they have the “right” to deprive their children of necessary medical attention, even though these loving and often well-educated parents sincerely believe this is in “the best interests of the child.” Similarly there are parents, judges and mental health professionals who advise against a powerful preventative medicine – one that protects children for a lifetime against damaged, weakened, or completely lost relationships with one of their parents. That preventative medicine is shared parenting — allowing children to continue living with both parents at least 35 percent of the time.
Mental health research clearly shows shared parenting provides the best outcomes in most cases for children whose parents aren’t living together. There are 43 peer-reviewed studies that compare children in shared parenting families to those who live primarily or exclusively with one parent. The results are clear and unambiguous. The children in shared parenting families have better outcomes.
Did the parents in the shared parenting families have especially communicative, friendly relationships with each other? No. Did they mutually agree at the outset to share rather than to hoard parenting time without any nudging from mediators, lawyers or therapists? No. Do these 43 studies show these children’s lives are unstable, disrupted or stressful because they lived in two homes instead of one? No.
When their parents are behaving badly towards each other, are children any worse off living in two homes rather than one? No. For the past quarter century, in dozens of research studies, have most children told us that the every other weekend parenting plan is meeting their needs, making them feel stable and secure, and reducing the disruption in their lives? No. In fact, they’ve told us quite the opposite.
Last year, 110 international experts on child development, early childhood attachment and divorce reached a ground-breaking consensus — shared parenting, including frequent overnighting with both parents for infants and toddlers, is in children’s best interests.
Too many mental health professionals and professors offer recommendations about parenting plans that are based on their personal beliefs — not on empirical data. Indeed many of these professionals have never read the available research. Just as some poorly informed doctor’s offer out-dated or harmful advice about medical treatments, there are professionals who offer advice to judges and mental health practitioners that is not research-based.
More troubling still, many of these speakers and writers convincingly present their opinions as if they were actually reporting empirical data – a disguise that is not only disingenuous but potentially harmful to children whose lives are affected by judges’ and mental health practitioners’ decisions regarding custody issues. In short, too many well intentioned judges and practitioners have been misled into accepting advice that is not based on empirical evidence.
Shared parenting is not about parents’ rights. It is about making the best choices for children — decisions that are firmly grounded in research — not on the personal opinions of parents, seminar speakers, mental health professionals or judges.
Richard Grenville said:
John Rosemont is right, shared parenting is entirely inappropriate in cases which come before the Family Courts.
What Yuri has said may apply in some cases where parents have separated amicably and are responsible and mature enough to wo0rk out an arrangement between them which is demonstrably and measurably to the benefit of their children. They are the vast majority of cases of parental separation and which never come before a Family Court.
But such arrangements are entirely inappropriate for Family Court cases, where most have a history of domestic violence, child abuse, rape, criminality, drug abuse, mental illness (particularly Anti-Social Personality Disorders and among fathers and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders among the mothers) and where rancour and bitterness and vengefulness are continuing marks of the parental relationship.
Shared Parenting arrangements should never be imposed on children in such circumstances as they become the unwitting pawns and victims in the continuing disputes and often, the continuing violence and abuse.
So Yuri is presenting research to support an apples and pears situation and is to be guarded against. in Family Law cases, each of which presents a different set of circumstances and which has to be judged on its respective merits where a one-size-fits-all remedy such as shared parenting must be studiously avoided.
Even in amicable arrangements, the children report feeling like Ping-Pongs bounced between houses and different sets of conditions, rules, standards of care, expectations, are applied. They often state, “I live in two houses, but I don’t have a home”. They are unable to form and maintain peer relationships in their neighbourhoods due to their transience and which is vastly important to young children to help in their socialisation. Babies and infants should never be separated for long periods (e.g. overnights from their primary caregivers, the mothers as the development emotional attachment is immensely important to children at that age, for their feelings of safety and security and constancy and consistency in their care.
Shared Parenting will therefore produce a generation of seriously emotionally disturbed children and young people, as it is in Australia where such a system has been applied with dire consequences for the children.
By any measure the apples and pears characterisation is unconvincing and fails the test of academic scrutiny. To paraphrase Professor Linda Nielsen, “There are 43 peer-reviewed studies that compare children in shared parenting families to those who live primarily or exclusively with one parent. The results are clear and unambiguous. The children in shared parenting families have better outcomes.”
Let me recap the central findings regarding the physical custody of children published in scientific journals.
In marked contrast to the traditional “one size fits all” sole custody parenting plan where children live primarily or exclusively with only one parent:
• The lion share of children and adults prefer more evenly balanced schedules.
Further, there is no research suggesting that children for the most part like or thrive on the one size fits all fall back ‘80/20’ arrangement that remains so commonplace. Studies in Australia, New Zealand and the U.S that asked adolescents and young adults their views on living arrangements after parents’ divorce all found that the vast majority endorsed equal time with both of their parents.
• Children with more involved fathers show better adjustment.
•In study after study children complained that they were not seeing their father enough. Those who had more time with their dads were much better adjusted than those who lost meaningful contact.
• Fathers who spend more time with their children are more likely to remain financially and emotionally committed.
•The benefits of father-child involvement do not detract from the mother-child relationship.
Moreover, the research indicates that because infants develop attachment relationships with both of their parents, there is a danger of disturbing one of those relationships by designating one parent as primary and limiting the infant’s time with the other parent. Policies and parenting plans should encourage and maximize the chances that infants will be raised by two adequate and involved parents.
• The better outcomes of shared physical custody are seen even when parents have a lot of conflict, as long as the conflict is not expressed violently, or by obstructing the child’s contact with the other parent, or by undermining the child’s affections for the other parent.
In sum and in marked contrast to hyperbole peddled by shared parenting detractors the scientific literature strongly supports public policies that maximize parenting time and when no circumstances exist that endanger the health, safety, or wellbeing of the children or of a parent.
As to Australia’s shared parenting experience anecdotes are not evidence of a rule, nor must they trump human rights. Far from the 2006 reforms being a failure misleadingly reported by the Norgrove review, the Australian Institute of Family Studies evaluation concluded that “The philosophy of equal shared parental responsibility is overwhelmingly supported by parents, legal system professionals and service professionals.” Litigation rates have fallen and the Equal Parental Responsibility presumption is beneficial and working well for children, including children under 3, according to parents.
Richard Grenville said:
Forced Adoption said:
There can sometimes be a case for stopping direct face to face contact between a criminal parent and child.There can NEVER,NEVER,be justification for stopping even indirect contact between a non criminal parent and child.Phone calls ,emails, letters,should always be allowed.It is outrageous to jail any parent for sending a birthday card ,waving at children passing in the street,posting happy 21st birthday on the net (yes I did say 21st !) or for an accidental meeting for which Vicky Haigh got sentence to 3 years imprisonment !