July 30, 2018-The conceptual arguments that have opposed equal shared parenting have transformed over time
Another concern about the granting of joint custody to fathers was the assumption that the primary motivation of divorced fathers seeking joint custody and shared parenting arrangements was to avoid child support obligations (Polikoff, 1982). Fatherhood researchers (Ambrose, Harper, & Pemberton, 1983; Greif, 1979; Hetherington, Cox, & Cox, 1976; Jacobs, 1986; Kruk, 1992; Lamb, 1981; Lund, 1987) thus examined this question. This research concluded that although fathers envisioned the concept of shared parenting as encompassing a sharing of both parental rights and responsibilities, their primary motivation was to maintain meaningful day-to-day relationships with their children.
Fathers experienced a profound grief reaction related to the absence of their children and saw themselves at high risk of becoming alienated from their children within traditional custody and access arrangements. (Kruk, 1992) Once it was established that fathers’ motives to maintain meaningful relationships with their children were genuine, with shared physical caregiving arrangements their desired goal, the three waves of arguments against shared parenting began to unfold in earnest.
The first wave was based on an outdated form of attachment theory that focused on children’s need for maintaining attachments with their primary caregiver, and the mother’s supposedly natural position as the primary parent.
The second wave focused on children’s exposure to high conflict and family violence in shared parenting arrangements; these arguments persisted despite an initial lack of research on the link between the two.
Finally, the third wave of arguments acknowledged that shared parenting might be beneficial for most children, but cautioned against the idea of presumptions in family law, focusing on subgroups of children and families such as children in high-conflict families, or infants and the very young. Again, these arguments persisted despite new research supportive of shared parenting that challenged outdated assumptions about these populations.
It should be noted that arguments against a legal presumption of shared parenting have not followed a straightforward progression. Further, each of the waves of objections, although challenged by current research, persists in some quarters. The emergence of more robust research on children’s outcomes in shared parenting families in a wide variety of circumstances, however, has now led to a watershed moment in which a consensus is emerging with respect to shared parenting as optimal to children’s best interests and commensurate with their well-being.
Edward Kruk (2018): Arguments Against a Presumption of Shared Physical Custody in Family Law, Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, DOI: 10.1080/10502556.2018.1454201 at pp. 2 – 3