John and Emma have separated after 17 years of marriage. They have a 14 year-old daughter, Amy and a 12 year-old son, George. John and Emma are going to attend Parenting Through Separation to try and reach an agreement about the day-to-day care arrangements for Amy and George. John and Emma want shared care of the children.
Advantages of shared care
- Children can maintain a strong relationship with both parents;
- Children have a normal day-to-day relationship with both parents;
- Children get quality time with both parents;
- Alleviates the distress and rejection children often feel when a parent moves out;
- Children develop better than children in the sole care of one parent; and
- One parent is not over-burdened with the sole responsibility of day-to-day care.
Disadvantages of shared care
- Children may not settle in one place;
- They may experience a sense of lack of control in their life;
- Parents need to live in close proximity to one another – ability to change jobs and take on other opportunities may be hindered; and
- If parents have unresolved issues shared care may aggravate the conflict because of increased discussion and contact with one another.
Key factors to consider
• Time – Do you have enough time available to spend with your children?
• Location – How practical is it to share day-to-day care? Do you live close to your ex partner? Do you live near your children’s school? These are important because your location is a large component in the stability provided to your children.
• The child’s safety.
• Stability – Children need security. It is essential you are able to put your child’s needs first and provide them with suitable facilities.
• Age – The age of the child is an important determination. Babies and younger children need routine and stability so short gaps between seeing parents is beneficial. Sleeping and feeding patterns must be taken into account. Children over five years of age are able to manage longer periods between seeing a parent because of their ability to cope better with changing circumstances.
• Views and wishes – In particular, teenagers like to be included in the decision making process. The more mature a child is the more likely their views will be taken into account.
It is important John and Emma’s paramount consideration is Amy and George’s welfare and best interests. They should consider their availability of time; the proximity of their homes to one another, their children’s schools and activities; the children’s safety; the stability each of them can provide; the children’s ages; and their views and wishes. Once they reach a suitable agreement they could apply for a parenting order so their agreement is enforceable. They can take legal advice on whether this is a good option.
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