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Family professionals from 14 countries call for government action on shared parenting

A group of family professionals and parents’ groups from 14 countries have called on governments to actively promote the principle of shared parenting.

Delegates at the ‘Two Homes’ event, the first workshop held by  the International Platform on Shared Parenting in Bonn, included parents’ organisations and social scientists from countries in both Europe and North America.

The two day conference considered the latest evidence-based research on shared parenting and called on governments, family courts, lawyers and social workers to encourage shared parenting initiatives.

The group considered recent Swedish research suggesting that children living in separated families who share parenting experience less bullying than those in families where only one parent is actively involved. Previous research also suggests that children in shared parenting situations do better at school, and have fewer social, family and psychological problems than others.

The group adopted the following initiative:

“We must extinguish the flames of conflict between separated parents so that children can benefit from the support of their mothers and fathers. There must be more widespread awareness, acceptance and implementation of shared parenting as a viable and preferred solution among the public and involved professions.”

International Platform initiator Angela Hoffmeyer explained the group’s motivation:

“Across Western societies there is increased enthusiasm for shared parenting. Our aim is to raise awareness of the benefits of this living arrangement for children and to overcome reservations still prevailing in the legal system.”

The initiative received was supported by parenting charity Families Need Fathers. Chair Jerry Karlin said:

“The Two Homes event has emphasised that shared parenting benefits children, families and communities by ensuring parental separation does not lead to a child becoming estranged from a loving parent. It was very positive to see organisations from a number of countries working together to share details of research and best practice on shared parenting arrangements.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Tina Granstrom says:

    There should always be equal custody as a first move and then IF there is verifiable proof that it would be a detriment THEN and only then should it be deferred from.

  2. Stitchedup says:

    I agree with you in principle but there’s a problem as there is no burden of proof in the civil/family courts and judges will often take the easy, safe bet, poilticaly correct option and side with the mother. Until such time that organisation such as Women’s Aid are exposed for what they are and persecuting men is no longer seen as a politicaly correct safe bet things will not change. To be a parent a man will need to have adequate housing so that he can offer his children a bed for the night. Men are routinely fleeced in the family courts and left with next to nothing in the interets of guranteeing the women has a roof over her head and the childern a bed to sleep in. A more even handed approach is needed so that men are left in a position whereby they can offer their children a comfortable nights sleep. To achieve shared parenting major changes will beed to happen.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Yes, Tina, the problem has always been though that the proviso that you attach at the end of your sentence has been overwhelmingly abused. It invites all sorts of discord, accusation, hostility from the controlling party, who really believes it is their god-given right to be the sole carer, and has no qualms about putting the other party through hell.

    The current position is that both parents should be involved unless…. It hasn’t changed anything. Fathers are still treated as rats, good for little more than money.

  4. Luke says:

    In principal I agree with fully shared parenting – and I think fathers must be involved more – but I don’t think the children should shuttle between the parents residency-wise on a 50-50 basis. In my view the parents might like it but the kids don’t.

    I think it makes them less secure, they do need one home as a main base – that has been my experience viewed one step removed. There is no ideal solution to this once divorce occurs – the upset to the children can be massively reduced if the parents are cooperative but in divorce cases that rarely seem to be how it is I’m sad to say.

  5. Don Hubin says:

    Nearly 40 years of social science research points to the conclusion that, typically, shared parenting produces the best outcomes for children. For a recent review of the literature, see Neilsen, L. (2011). Shared Parenting After Divorce: A Review of Shared Residential Parenting Research. Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 52:8, 586-609. The “shuttling back and forth” is not usually a serious problem if the parents live reasonably close together and are willing to be even minimally cooperative.

    In response to Luke’s very legitimate concern about the low levels of cooperation by divorced parents, I would suggest that part of the problem is precisely the use of sole custody as a default position for uncooperative parents. First, the parent identified as “non-custodial” feels aggrieved and sees his or her relationship with the children devalued and under-protected. And, then, the court says: if you two can’t cooperate, then we’ll order sole custody. Since one of the parents can predict with better than 85% accuracy that *she* will get sole custody if they can’t cooperate, what incentive does she have to cooperate.

    A better solution is to, in the absence of evidence that it would be detrimental to the children, order shared parenting during the pendency of the trial and tell the parents that if this doesn’t work, the parent who tried harder to cooperate and make it work will get sole custody. That puts the incentives where they should be, on cooperation to make the best child rearing arrangement work.

  6. Pete says:

    Luke, you are wrong. They do not “shuttle”, they live and have two homes. Most every child actually(with two equally loving, involved parents and homes) who does this finds that it is not optimal(optimal would be one house with two parents) , but STRONGLY prefer 2 parents in 2 homes to 1 parent in one home, and visiting dad. Kids adjust very well to week on week off when that is their schedule and they are well taken care of by both parents!

  7. Jonathan says:


  8. Luke says:

    ‘The “shuttling back and forth” is not usually a serious problem if the parents live reasonably close together and are willing to be even minimally cooperative.’

    Well, you only have one ‘if’ in there Don but that is actually a lot of ‘ifs’ !
    (1) Most very small young children want almost continual contact with their mother – I am well aware fathers get a terrible deal all round but this factor cannot be ignored. I know it isn’t PC to say it but in my experience it is just reality. We are dealing with damage limitation here remember.
    (2) Parents do not necessarily live that close – certainly not close enough when the child is missing a parent to pop over to see the other one with ease.
    (3) Divorced parents are usually uncooperative to some degree and if you really think family court can be trusted to work out who is at fault when it is not clear cut I have got a bridge I would like to sell you…

    I have some experience within my own extended family and I know that in their case the children would have been fundamentally damaged by too much shuttling about – in fact to some extent I fear damage has already happened when the children have been forced away from the mother for extended periods (which thankfully no longer seems to occur) and for a period it was certainly a major concern in their behaviour at school and playschool.

    Fathers MUST be given regular contact, and if that contact is stopped by the mother then the courts should act (generally they seem to just ignore it if they can), but continually shuttling about with no firm base is in my opinion usually an unacceptable risk. It is much fairer for the parents but as they’ve completely stuffed up their marriage they should now be concentrating solely on the welfare of the children.

    In the unusual cases where the parents are very amicable and the children like the idea then that’s great – but I don’t think it can be the norm.

  9. Robert says:

    In a lot of jurisdictions, at least in N.A., the presumption (yes there already is a presumption) is to “shuttle” the children every week, even in the the most minimal cases of “access” being granted to the “visitor” parent. Perhaps some of you have heard of this arrangement. First week, “shuttle” the children for “babysitting” over a Saturday night, “shuttle” back on Sunday. Second week,”shuttle” for Wednesday “movie night”, “shuttle” back. Then repeat, equaling 1 “shuttle” per week, every week. Funny, how proponents don’t argue about “shuttling” in this most common case (when conflicted separated people happen to be…in conflict). I guess the important part is one parent is in control and the other one grovels.

  10. Anonymous says:

    The shuttling argument is a completely empty one, made by people who a) are not thinking things through, or b) are just plain malicious.

    People spend their lives shuttling, as do children, from nursery to school, to rugby, to their maths tutor, to the childminder or grandparents, to their friends’ homes, or what have you.

    It’s just a matter of how that shuttling happens.

    Don’s solution is a good one. Judges will of course not have first-hand experience of how that shuttling happens, but if there is a history of hostility on the side of one parent, it will be pretty obvious where the problem likely lies.

  11. Robert says:

    Agreed! I was quite happy to read Don’s clear assessment of the entire “those in conflict dilemma”. Something I have been thinking about recently, and was hoping to see eloquently stated.

    His post points out the downward spiral of horrible logic, that completely fails to take into account the possibility of nefarious intent by one parent. A self actuating, false dilemma that uses vagueness, and a sort of Red Herring logic doctrine. Something easily applied for one parent to alienate another, that I’m sure is encouraged by equally immoral lawyers.

  12. Singledad says:

    Completely agree with Don, he’s spot on. Completely disagree with Luke because:

    1. His was not a direct experience at all
    2. It was anecdotal – i.e. his opinion that the shuttling damaged the child when it could have been something else
    3. He is clearly not a professional of any kind in assessing child welfare
    4. The idea of a child wanting constant contact with mother is not necessary for a healthy child. They are supposed to start becoming more independent around 2 – 3 years old as they start to have boundaries set for them. Children younger than 2 have quite a transient experience so technically would be happy to spend half the day with each parent – each day – every day – and do find that quite pleasant. As they get older the time away from each parent could be extended to longer hours, days, etc. Ofcourse if the father was never involved from the beginning then the child would have to be given a chance to build up this attachment with the father but this would be the same as a nursery worker, etc. So no basis for this statement.

    As someone who has an equal time sharing arrangement , court awarded, of a 1.5 yr old who is now much older, I can quite happily debunk all of his concerns and in fact those of self proclaimed experts about the “damage” of shuttling as completely untrue. It’s literally a false argument. Simply stated – boarding school = shuttling. School every day for 6-8 hours = shuttling. I’m glad people before me have made these points already to some extent. I wanted to back it up with experience. My custody trial could not BE more acrimonious. Had to defeat a leave to remove and did. However once equal time share was granted the unreasonable and entitled ex had no choice BUT to be co-operative or face far worse consequences. Cost virtually all of my life savings with the current bent adversarial family law system and of course was far cheaper for the mother who made loads of false allegations (with no repercussion whatsoever for doing so!) , but was worth it for my child. Still am massively discriminated against as a equal residence parent by welfare department, social services and csa but schools, NHS dentist and NHS GP are excellent. However i don’t mind paying maintenance to the rich ex because I know it all has to somehow go to my child when in her care. Took about 6 months but we are more or less both calm – just am alot poorer because the spoilt brat took a punt. Had i been on legal aid would have lost for sure. She knows what utter hell we could both make life for each other as well as our child if we don’t co-operate so she does not attack me anymore. Equal time parenting saved my sons welfare long term and am a huge advocate for it. Am lucky that i can have a flexible job though – this is the main concern – but this is true for both sexes. Judges favouring mothers is just pathetic because it encourages them actively not to get a job with large maintenance pay outs. Outdated and preposterous crap.

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