A lot is said about the continued involvement of both parents in the lives of their children following a divorce or separation. Here at Holland Family Law, we’re of the opinion that children need both their parents in their lives – except in cases of abuse – even if mum and dad are no longer together. This is where shared parenting offers a solution.
Shared parenting, sometimes referred to as ‘co-operative parenting’, ‘equal parenting’, ‘involved parenting’ or ‘parallel parenting’ goes beyond how much time each parent spends with their children. It actually involves parents playing an equally active role in the upbringing of their children after a divorce or separation
If a child is only spending a limited amount of time with a non-resident parent, such as one weekend a month and additional time during school holidays, this wouldn’t be considered shared parenting.
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What does ‘shared parenting’ look like?
Shared parenting involves mum and dad spending an equal proportion of time with their child(ren) and working together to make decisions on what’s best for their child(ren). ‘Shared parenting is a commitment to a childhood-long parenting plan’, according to Family Lives.
The plan is then reviewed by parents periodically and adapted to suit the child’s emotional, academic and physical needs as they grow up.
According to Families Need Fathers, a shared parenting plan should include the following objectives:
- Helping children to feel that they have two properly involved parents in their lives.
- Ensuring that no one parent is dominating the lives of the children to the detriment of the other parent.
- That each parent has ‘equal moral authority’ in the eyes of the children ensuring that children feel free to access both of their parents to talk about issues affecting them.
- That children can share in the lives of both their parents, even if their parents enter a new relationship, remarry or have other children.
- That parents are on an equal footing in terms of legal and moral equality.
- That there is no part of a child’s life that any one parent is excluded from, such as school life, as a result of a divorce or separation.
- That children are not by the virtue of allocation of parenting time excluded from any part of either of their parent’s lives.
- That children spend enough time with both parents to prevent any attempt at parental alienation.
- To ensure that children do not develop stereotyped ideas from their parents about the role of a mum or dad. For example, that dad is chiefly the financial provider and that mum is responsible for everything else.
Sticking to these objectives will require the cooperation of both parents, while taking into account the needs of the children. However, all aspects of shared parenting should ensure that the wellbeing of a child comes first.
How do we agree on a shared parenting plan?
It’s best to have an agreement in place that covers all aspects of shared parenting, which includes school pick up and drop off, midweek and weekend contact, arrangements during school holidays and special days such as Christmas Day and birthdays.
The agreement can also extend as far as not putting a child in day-care, after-school clubs or arranging a babysitter as alternatives to parental care if one of the parents is available to look after the child(ren).
There should also be a provision to see grandparents on both mum and dad’s side of the family.