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Shared parenting a possibility? Cally Griffiths discusses

Upon separation many parents would like to share the parenting of any children between them. However, is this practical and do the courts support such a proposal?

If both parents live reasonably close to each other and within travelling distance of the children’s schooling, there does not appear to be any practical reason why the children should not split their time between the parents. Indeed if parents are working shifts or even just working full time, being able to share the child care responsibilities can lift a huge burden and save the family significant costs.

Whilst this seems like an ideal situation in the past, shared residence orders were rare and only granted in exceptional circumstances. Previously courts have displayed a bias towards granted residence to the Mother and contact to the Father. However, the courts are now starting to interpret the law in such a way that increasingly grants equally parenting rights to both parties. The Children Act has always specified that orders should be considered on the basis of what is in the best interests for the child. It now appears that courts are interpreting this on the basis of the fact that in reality children are now splitting their time and it may be in their best interest for this to continue.

In a recent case a leading family Judge, Mostyn J stated "A shared residence order is nowadays the rule rather than the exception, even where the quantum of care undertaken by each parent is decidedly unequal. There is a very good reason why such orders should be normative for they avoid the psychological baggage of right, power and control that attends a sole residence order."

This certainly appears to be strongly recommending joint residence orders as a way forward. A move which children’s campaigners will no doubt support. Children who have a meaningful and supportive relationship with both parents will feel the benefits throughout their lives and it is generally believed such arrangements should be encouraged whenever possible.