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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