What are the Benefits of Shared Parenting? - Marrison Family Law

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What are the Benefits of Shared Parenting?

Friday, 30 August 2013

shared parentingIf your marriage is headed for divorce and you have children, it is important to consider the importance of shared parenting. In the past, custody was "awarded" to one parent or the other, essentially excluding the non-custodial parent from of the everyday lives of the children. But there has been a sea change in how family court judges view custody. Family court judges and mediators across the country have embraced decision-making that honors the "best interests of the children." This could still mean they live with mom in the family home, but it is just as likely to be a shared custody decision.

Shared parenting reduces conflict

In a recent article that appeared on FathersandFamilies.org, "Shared Parenting Reduces Conflict, Benefits Kids" (May 18, 2012), Dr. Edward Kruk from the University of British Columbia discusses custody matters that focus on the children of high-conflict divorces. Like many other social scientists, legislators and judges, Kruk concurred that shared parenting worked well when the exes got along, but it can make things worse for kids when there is conflict. However, recent studies reveal that the conflict reported in many custody situations is a direct result of the numerous pick-ups and drop-offs that these articles typically entail. Simply put, the best way to lessen the strife between parents in a shared-custody situation is to decrease the frequency of their interactions.

Changing the "typical" visitation schedule

In most cases, a typical custody order gives the kids to Mom for two weeks, during which time Dad gets a few overnights or one weekend. Even if Dad had only one overnight within a two week period, the children would be exchanged between parents six times within a typical four week period. During those 28 days, Dad has the kids just over 20 percent of the time, but it could be easier. A parenting arrangement in which Mom has the kids for two weeks and then Dad has them for two weeks would require only two pick-ups/drop offs and the kids would spend equal time with each parent.

According to many Colorado Springs family law attorneys, shared parenting itself is not the problem, but rather the way in which judges arrange parenting time. Prior research that examined the frequency of alternating contact found that children of high conflict divorces were more stressed by frequent alternations between mom's house and dad's. In other words, in seeking to make custody agreements that are in the best interests of children, it would make sense to minimize their exposure to parental conflict. Also, it helps when parents in high-conflict divorces avoid direct contact with each other during transitions. When this strategy was put into place for these children, the negative effects all but disappeared.

Shared parenting can improve relationships

When ordered correctly, shared parenting can actually help improve the relationship between parents, while protecting children from conflict. According to the article, the fact that children suffer after a divorce may be more as a result of losing their fathers' daily presence than because of parental conflict. This consensus seems to have emerged from a series of studies by Robert Bauserman (2002) that compared outcomes in sole custody vs. shared parenting homes. What was apparent from this research was that shared parenting had a direct impact on the well-being of children that existed independent of parental conflict. In fact, it was sole custody that tended to produce the most conflict between parents.

With this "winner take all" mentality, it is no surprise that parents remained at odds with one another for years to come. Other research has shown that sole custody is often associated with the creation of new conflict. Surprisingly, half of first-time domestic violence occurs after a couple is separated and within the contact of a sole custody situation. Given the high stakes, plus the fear and hostility that comes with being deprived of a relationship with one's children, it is easy to see how this could ramp up hostilities between parents.

Studies have also demonstrated that limiting fathers' involvement in their children's lives is directly connected with the level of hostility toward their ex-wives. Parental conflict increases in sole custody arrangements, and decreases over time in shared parenting arrangements.  When neither parent is threatened by the loss of his or her children, conflict goes down.

With this information in mind, it makes sense to be cognizant of how your custody arrangement will affect the children. A Colorado Springs divorce lawyer can help you develop a parenting plan that minimizes conflict and maximizes parental involvement. In a high-conflict divorce situation, it is beneficial be guided by what is in the best interests of your children.

Photo Courtesy of jannoon028 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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MPatMarrisonFor over a quarter century, we have helped people during what is often the darkest time in their lives. Divorce is not easy even under the best of circumstances. For most people, family is central. Having something go wrong in the family can have a ripple effect that extends beyond the home and into other areas.

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