What is meant by shared parenting?

Shared parenting, other people sometimes refer to as shared custody, joint custody or shared care, involves the child spending significant amounts of time with both parents. It does not mean allocating fixed amounts of time with each parent or that a child’s time must be split 50:50 with each parent but is more about the parents being actively involved in their child’s life and an active participant in the decision-making processes regarding their child(ren).  This is especially the case where the proportion of time spent with the child(ren) by the non-resident parent is so low that it cannot be said that parenting is shared or that the non-resident parent can be effective in any decision making regarding their child.

Shared parenting refers to the long-term parenting plan rather than just a single point in a child’s life and that this plan should be adapted throughout a child’s life to effectively take into consideration the changing emotional, academic and physical needs as a child grows and develops.

The objectives of shared parenting include:

  • The children feeling they have two involved parents.
  • One parent cannot control or dominate the lives of the children or the non-resident parent via the children, at the expense of the other.
  • The children have access to either parent when required and that they are both seen as equal in the eyes of the child.
  • The children are able to share rounded, holistic time with both parents i.e. routine and leisure time.
  • That both parents are seen as equal by all including the law, education, friends etc.
  • That one parent is not excluded from any part of the child’s life due to parenting time etc.
  • That the child is not excluded from any part of the non-resident parent’s life due to parenting time etc.
  • That parental alienation is negated through spending enough time with both parents.
  • That the children do not stereotype as a result of ideas given by the parents, as to the roles of the sexes in parenting.

These criteria will obviously be different to each family’s dependent upon the consideration, discussion and negotiation of individual needs, the circumstances and wishes of both the parents and children.

Examples of shared parenting

  • Weekend contact begins on Friday with the collection from school and lasts until Monday morning with them being taken to school. This increases parenting time, allows contact with the school, allows the non-resident parent to be a part of the child’s routine and also reduces the contact between the parents where there is friction.
  • Mid-week contact, again picking the child up from school and preferably staying overnight.
  • Contact for half the holidays should mean half the time the child has off school and should include school training days, bank holidays etc.
  • That special days such as Christmas and Birthdays etc. are shared equally in instances where the parents cannot be together and that children are allowed to spend time with the other parent on days that are special to that parent in particular i.e. parents and close relatives’ birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s days etc.
  • If a parent is free and available to look after the child then the use of after school clubs, day care etc., should not be used.
  • Adequate time given for the child to see relatives from both sides of the family.

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