Who is the most important person in shared parenting…..the mother?.....the father?.....
Neither…… it is the child!
There is so much conflict over shared parenting time with one parent thinking they call the shots and another wanting their share of the children. The children must feel like they are in a tug of war being virtually pulled in either direction by each parent or being argued over scheduled parenting time like the children are a timeshare asset.
Where does that end up? in court battling it out, children being withheld or a parent having to prove they are a good parent……. fighting for a winner to be awarded the prize……. the children!
Shared parenting shouldn’t be about who is the best parent, it is about who was providing care when the kids needed it. It might have been when they were sick in the night, it might be that they missed the bus and needed a lift to school, it might have been helping them with their homework, taking them to netball training or supporting pre-exam nerves. Think back on the care for your children……be honest, who did the kids turn to when in need?
Shared parenting should be based on the pre-separation care arrangements…….. because that is what the kids are use to!
Remember it is about the kids, NOT the parents!
So, if your children are used to BOTH parents sharing the care on a 50/50 basis such as being interchangeable with the other parent to care for the children. Each parent being hands on to feed, bathe, help with homework, take kids to activities, plays games, read books to them, look after them in the absence of the other parent etc.
Or your children might be use to one parent being the primary care giver during the week, taking the kids to school, feeding them, bathing them, help with homework, take kids to after school activities, read a story to them, put them to bed. The other parent may not get home until late and helps with care for the children on the weekends.
Or the primary care giver may perform that role 24 x 7 even when the other parent is home on weekends.
Just because separation has occurred it doesn’t mean that everything in the house including the kids are shared equally.
There have been cases where:
A primary care giver has a newborn baby or toddler and the other parent fights for 50/50 shared parenting. The child is attached and looked after by the primary carer for most of their waking day. Think about it, are you fighting for equal shared parenting because you think it is your right to do so or are you going to look at what is in the best interests of the infant and continue to see that child as you use to pre-separation which might be an hour a day in the week and a few hours on the weekend?
The family that has 50/50 shared care pre-separation with the parents being interchangeable and doing all the care activities for the children would have a more seamless adjustment to creating two family homes with 50/50 shared parenting. You need to consider that the children need to go to school so it is only going to be feasible for 50/50 shared parenting if you live close by, within 20-30mins of the school. Younger children may need the schedule to be less time away from each parent so you might consider a schedule such as;
2nights Parent A, 2 nights Parent B, 3 nights alternate weekend
2nights Parent A, 3 nights Parent B, 3 nights Parent A, 2 nights Parent B
Older children may find it too disruptive to keep swapping too much so may opt for one week
on and one week off.
Research shows that only 30% of separated parents reach agreement for coparenting whereby a further 30% require the help from professionals such as lawyers, psychologists, or counsellors. The remaining 40% are unable to reach agreement and need to attend mediation of which 66% reach agreement leaving the remainder to go to court for resolution.
So, ONLY 30% of separated parents can agree without some intervention!
It is the parents who know what is best for their family. They know what their children need, how their children respond to certain situations and how the family has resolved crisis in the past. So why do so few work it out for themselves during separation?
Separated parents need to separate how they feel about the breakup, so they can be child first focused to help their family transition and adjust to the new family structure.
So, make it your mission to do what is in the best interests of the child, not what is best for you!
A Parenting after Separation program supports you to separate the pain of the breakup from your co-parenting responsibilities, be a good role model, minimise conflict and improve communication.
Author – Cheryl Duffy, Divorce Coach & Mediator