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March 4, 2019-Defining Your Terms

Shared parenting can have multiple meanings and goes under multiple names with different nuances- e.g. joint legal and physical custody, joint physical custody, shared residence, shared care, co-parenting, alternating residency, equal shared parenting and equal parenting. Using traditional custody terminology, shared parenting generally refers to significant shared legal (parenting responsibility and decision-making) and physical custody (parenting time). Jurisdictions and empirical research generally start from no less than a 25% threshold to distinguish joint from sole physical custody. In recent years, social sciences have consensually adopted 35% as the minimum threshold. For this paper, we use shared parenting in its most generic sense.

We define Equal Shared Parenting (ESP) as joint legal custody (parental responsibility and decision-making) and joint physical custody (parenting time) with maximum practical child time with each parent as the highest embodiment of the best interests of the child standard subject to evidence-based considerations of child safety. Additionally, we use 50-50 shared parenting to denote de facto equal parenting time (e.g. 48-52%)

We prefer the term “Equal Shared Parenting” as it encompasses approximately equal parenting time and some form of shared responsibility for significant decisions that affect the child. Equality connotes equity, fairness and a focus upon children’s best interests.

Gene C. Colman and George A. Piskor, forthcoming article

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