What is shared Parenting and does it work?
What is shared parenting and does it work? It’s an interesting question. Here in England and Wales, there isn’t a presumption of shared parenting in the way you might think… yet. Does that surprise you?It could be argued that any child who sees both parents benefits from ‘shared parenting’ and that is the norm here, but the concept means more than just time with mum and dad. If shared parenting isn’t the norm here, does that mean that you can’t work towards shared parenting in your separation and divorce? No. It may work for you and your children, and increasingly, parents are doing this for themselves. So, just what is shared parenting and does it work?
It maybe tempting to assume that shared parenting is the idea that your children spend 50% of the time with each of you, right? Well as I mentioned, here in England and Wales, as the concept isn’t fully supported in law yet, there is no official definition of shared parenting here. We massively lag behind European countries and the United States, where the principle of shared care is enshrined in the law of 20 States. The organisation Leading Women For Shared Parenting reports that shared parenting is a ‘rebuttable presumption’. This means that shared parenting is the norm unless the parent that wishes to argue against, it is able to convince the court that it isn’t in the best interests of the child.
Does shared parenting work?
Research suggests that children benefit when they don’t experience parent absenteeism which impacts self-esteem and the ability to thrive. Research in the United States suggests that fatherlessness is related to every social pathology from teen pregnancy, runaways, drug and alcohol dependancy and criminality.
Further, men who experience ‘standard time’ as fathers, such as every other weekend and a teatime or night in the week, become depressed and as much as 40% of these fathers become non-involved with their children within 3 years, meaning children miss out on being fathered.
There are benefits to both parents in getting the support of the other parent in terms of managing their children both emotionally and financially. Shared care allows mothers to increase their ability to earn money and to also relax and enjoy personal time.
Is shared parenting a 50:50 thing?
Research shows that in order for children to have a good, meaningful relationship with both parents, children need to spend at least 35% of their time with each parent. If 50:50 works for you and your family, great but after the initial 35% minimum, the other 30% should be considered to be in the best interests of the children.
Quality over quantity cuts both ways
Single parenting is hard. Very hard. Being both mum and dad, good cop, bad cop, nurse, teacher, friend and playmate single handedly 24/7 is tiring both physically and emotionally. So why would you if you dont have to? There are no prizes for martyrdom. If you’re a tired stressed out single parent, can you ask your children’s other parent for more physical and emotional help? If you’re a parent who’s sulking because you’re not getting the time with your children you want, remember that walking away hurts you and your children.
Don’t make it about money
If shared parenting isn’t about a 50:50 split, and its about a minimum of 35% of the time, be mindful of the money game and focus on your children’s needs. Sadly, child maintenance is too caught up in the hours that children spend with each parent. The consequence? Sometimes mum’s want the children more so they get more maintenance to manage financially. Sometimes dad’s ask for more time than they can really manage because they don’t want to pay maintenance. It’s the children that lose in this scenario.
You’ll spend less on lawyers
Research in Australia found that couples who engaged in a shared parenting arrangement were 73% less likely to hire a lawyer to deal with their children issues. That’s a huge number. You see, if you engage in shared parenting from a place of acceptance and a genuine desire to put your children first, you’ll find that your communication with your child’s other parent will benefit you way beyond the issues at hand. You’ll have someone you can turn to, rely on and help you out as your children grow. You’ll be able to share your happiness at your children’s milestones and achievements and participate in a wider family network as you both move forward.
Your children will benefit throughout their lives
Shared parenting means that your children benefit from having two homes. Two homes is not confusing and does not create uncertainty for your children – on the contrary, it gives them certainty and stability. A recent study of the adult children of divorced parents in the U.S found that the one thing that they appreciated as children more than anything, was having a room at both parent’s house. It made them feel safe and loved.
Remember that you are always a behavioural role model for your children. If you are preventing your children from seeing their other parent or minimising such time, think about how you will feel if your children marry and end up in a similar situation. How will you feel not having time with your grandchildren?
If you struggle to let go, get support
Shared parenting can take practice when you’re dealing with your own hurt, anger, sadness and frustrations. That self-preservation part of our brains wants to shut down, be defensive and cling tightly to what we love. Welcome to being human. It’s a natural reaction to feel this way, but remember that even though your marriage didn’t work, your children need both their parents. They need to be able to love them and be loved by them. They need to spend time with them in a meaningful way.
If you or your children have experienced domestic abuse either by your husband or wife, or you are depressed, you may benefit from the support of your GP or a Counsellor. If you are struggling with the difficulties of separation, consider using Family Mediation as a way for working together to create a Parenting Plan that works for you and your family.
Inspiration for this blog came from the podcast Like a Mother with Emma Johnson, founder of www.wealthysinglemommy.com You can listen here:
I’m Emma, a Family Mediator at Crombie Wilkinson Your Family First in York, U.K www.yourfamilyfirst.co.uk 01904 6997760