January 27, 2020 - Do children really benefit from shared parenting after divorce? The experts say yes: over 50 recent studies have demonstrated this.

Introduction: This "ESP Thought of the Day" has experts' views from 2017. It is still accurate and topical.

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Do children really benefit from shared parenting after divorce? The experts say yes: over 50 recent studies have demonstrated this.

In 2017, 12 global expert researchers and scholars of divorce and post-separation parenting shared a platform at a conference in the USA and answered significant questions regarding shared parenting after divorce.

1. Do children really benefit from shared parenting after divorce?

Yes.

  • lower levels of depression, anxiety and dissatisfaction;
  • lower aggression;
  • less use of alcohol and drugs;
  • less smoking;
  • better school performance and cognitive development;
  • better physical health;
  • better family relationships.
  • Some studies show no benefits of shared parenting on some measures, but none show deficits relative to children in the sole custody of one parent. Even when levels of parental conflict are factored in, children do better with shared parenting than with sole custody.

2. How much time do children need to spend with each parent?

  • Consensus = around 35% of the child's time is required to maintain a high-quality relationship with a parent. Overnight time is important because it makes possible both parents' involvement in a variety of activities, such as bedtimes, mornings and homework.

3. Are social expectations of shared parenting important?

Yes.

  • If society and family law professionals communicate an expectation of sharing, parents' negotiating strategies change. The growing understanding of fathers' importance for children is strongly influencing the substantial societal shift towards an expectation of shared parenting.

4. Should there be a legal presumption of shared parenting?

Most said "yes".

  • Presumptions are and must be rebuttable in certain circumstances-for example, if there is a risk of child abuse or neglect, too great a distance between the parents' homes, threat of abduction by a parent, excessive gate-keeping, or a child with special needs requiring specialist care.
  • Intimate partner violence (IPV) comes in different forms, and the only form the experts agreed should preclude shared parenting is coercive, controlling violence, the stereotypical male battering pattern.

5. Should parental conflict or objections by one parent be grounds for an exception?

Most experts said no.

  • Not all conflict is toxic to children, and certain arrangements that can mitigate exposure to conflict, such as dropping off and picking children up at school rather than at home. Parallel parenting can work where cooperative parenting does not.
  • In one third of cases of conflict, the conflict is one-sided, with only one parent fomenting hostility and the other trying to move on. Conflict can also change over time, usually growing less severe. In fact, it can sometimes be reduced simply by educating parents about the value of shared parenting. On the other hand, parents who believe that high levels of conflict will lead to sole custody may have an incentive for conflict.
  • Most panelists strongly disagreed with the idea that shared parenting does not work if one parent opposes it. The evidence does not support this idea. Also, such an arrangement gives a veto to the less cooperative parent.

6. How should we deal with parental alienation?

  • Shared parenting tends to prevent parental alienation because it ensures that the child can directly evaluate the behaviour of both parents, recognising the discrepancies between the parent's actual characteristics and those described by the alienating parent.

7. What should happen when one parent wants to move far away?

  • Each case needs to be considered individually. They said that attention should be paid to the moving parent's reasons for wishing to move, the possibility that both parents might move, and the projected impact on the other parent-child relationship and on the child's adjustment. The history of involvement of the non-moving parent should also be a significant consideration.

Source: accessed at the Child & Family Blog on 5 January 2020: https://www.childandfamilyblog.com/child-development/shared-parenting-after-divorce/

Link to Gene C. Colman's Equal Shared Parenting Web Page

Link to past issues of the ESP Thought of the Day publication