We have long espoused the numerous benefits of shared parenting arrangements after parental separation, and we are not alone. Over the years, The International Council on Shared Parenting has been working to compile research on how sharing parenting responsibilities affects children.
Based on the research, the Council has reached several conclusions thus far.
- Parents should have at least a third of the time with their child. Less time would not promote a child’s well-being.
- The closer parents can get to dividing time 50/50, the more a child benefits.
- Co-parenting arrangements can be optimal, even when there is a lot of conflict between parents.
- Shared parenting should be the legal presumption in most cases, except those involving family violence.
- Governments should identify shared parenting as a fundamental right of children.
The group based these conclusions and recommendations on an extensive research database into family outcomes and child development.
What does this mean for Ontario families?
With so much evidence backing the importance of both parents continuing to play active roles in a child’s life after separation or divorce, it is an option worth taking seriously. Better yet, let us say that there should be a legislated rebuttable presumption that all parenting cases in Ontario to which the Children’s Law Reform Act applies, should have this rebuttable presumption apply. In other words, the starting point for any analysis should be equal time and equal decision making.
For sure such an ‘equal’ regime is not for everyone. That’s why it should be just “rebuttable” rather than carved in immutable stone.
The fact is that children generally benefit tremendously from having both parents in their lives. Moms and dads don’t have to do everything the same way or even set the same rules, and they may not even communicate with each other when it is not absolutely necessary.
The benefit to children largely stems from the comfort and consistency of spending time with both parents. Studies show children can build better relationships and have less stress when their parents share parenting duties after separation.
Understanding this can help parents set aside their preconceptions and negative feelings to focus on doing what is best for their child. With the help of lawyers as well as professionals like mediators or parenting time specialists, parents can develop a shared parenting plan that works for them and protects their child now and in the long run.
But to achieve such good results for kids, the Ontario legislature must take the lead. And don’t worry about the feds! Other provinces and territories will follow and then it will be incumbent upon the feds to amend their Divorce Act too.
To arrange an in depth consultation with Gene C. Colman to assess if you have a chance under current law to achieve equal shared parenting, click here.