Shared parenting or joint custody, which would include joint legal custody and joint physical custody, is the common term used to describe a family arrangement after separation or divorce, in which the care of the children is substantially shared between the father and mother, leading to a situation where the child knows that both of his/her parent's are involved in his/her upbringing.
Research and studies that are over a quarter century old show the significant benefits for children of shared parenting or joint physical custody (see Shared Parenting - Fact and Fiction). However, shared parenting is still uncommon in situations where family law practitioners are involved due to the adversarial nature of the family courts.
Despite the research for shared parenting as being in the best interest of the child in terms of a parenting arrangement, in many states, such as in California, the family courts are not ordering or awarding equal shared parenting arrangements where the child can benefit from living equally or near equally with both parents unless both parents agree to it. In other words, if one or both parents contests a shared parenting arrangement it is likely the family courts will not order the parents into a shared parenting arrangement, even in cases where shared parenting may be in the best interest of the child.
This type of conflict between the parents can often lead to excessive, expensive and/or the over use of (1) attorneys, legal counsel and litigation, (2) custody evaluations and mental health professionals, and (3) ultimately parents being pitted against each other struggling for a position of power and/or control in the family courts. As a result, the child ultimately suffers as a result of the conflict between the parents and attorneys and those involved with the family courts benefit financially.
Research has shown that the critical factor for children's adjustment to their parent's divorce/separation appears to be the amount of conflict between parents. When the incentive to "fight" has been removed, parents cooperate, minimize conflict, and children do better with shared parenting. Although gender bias remains a significant issue in the family courts, gender neutral shared parenting initiatives are being introduced more and more across the states.
California Assembly Bill 1307: Clarifying California Law to Promote Shared Parenting
Sadly, on May 3, 2003-2007, California Assembly Bill No. 1307 (AB 1307) was defeated in Assembly Judiciary Committee despite massive popular support. Some 2,000 supporters of the California Shared Parenting Alliance (CSPA) called, Faxed, and/or wrote the Assembly Judiciary Committee in support of AB 1307. Assemblyman Mervyn M. Dymally, the bill's principal author, says he will be bring the bill back next year. Please check back for information as to how you can support this effort.
Shared Parenting Bill AB 1307 sought to clarify California law and create a clear presumption that parents equally share in the responsibility of joint custody of their children unless there is clear evidence that it would not be in the children's best interest. AB 1307 would help protect children's relationship with both parents by making it clear that parents come before the family court with equal rights to and responsibilities for their children.
North Dakota Shared Parenting Initiative
North Dakota's Shared Parenting Initiative was developed by citizens as the citizens response to family court intrusion into the private sphere of family life. Each year thousands of children in our state lose a relationship with one of their parent's as a result of divorce. It does not have to be this way. No child should lose access to a parent and no parent should be forced to become a visitor in their child's life simply because the parent's no longer live together.
Shared Parenting Resources
Shared Parenting Research
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Children's Rights Council
Joint Custody and Shared Parenting
What the Research Says, What Parents Say
Shared Parenting Legislation in the U.S.
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Children's Rights Council.
Joint Custody and Shared Parenting Statutes
Recognizing the benefits of joint custody and shared parenting, most states have adopted laws to encourage the involvement of both parents.