Shared Parenting – the psychological and sociological evidence

There now exists a plethora of scientific psychological and sociological evidence and research – some of which is Government-commissioned – in favour of ‘Shared Parenting’.

It plainly demonstrates the emotional, developmental and educational benefits for children of remaining in a ‘meaningful’ relationship with both their natural parents, post separation/ divorce:

Professor Edward Kruk, Ph.D.  University of British Columbia

Professor Edward Kruk, Ph.D. University of British Columbia

As with most objective scientific inquiry, the evidence is never 100% conclusive. Selected research can always be found which fails to support ‘Shared Parenting’.

However, meta-analyses of all the research available show a general consensus that children benefit from being permitted to remain in ‘meaningful contact’ with both their natural parents (except, of course, in cases where there is verifiable evidence of child abuse).

Contemporary social scientists have confirmed what most major world religions have known for centuries – that children benefit from the love and guidance of both their mother and their father.

Furthermore, most of the above scientific data in favour of ‘Shared Parenting’ has already been exhibited as formal evidence at the Family Division of the High Court, and has proved to be very persuasive indeed.

After giving himself three weeks to read fifteen contemporary scientific reports in favour of Shared Parenting in the widely-reported case of Re D (Children) [2010] EWCA Civ 50, former President of the Family Division, Sir Nicholas Wall published his carefully considered view that family law (in the form of Payne v Payne) relegated the harm done to children by failing to support close, meaningful and on-going relationships between children and their non-resident parent:

Retired President of the Family Division of the High Court, Sir Nicholas Wall

Retired President of the Family Division of the High Court, Sir Nicholas Wall

In Re AR (A Child: Relocation) [2010] EWHC 1346, High Court judge, Sir Nicholas Mostyn also made reference to contemporary scientific evidence in favour of ‘Shared Parenting’.

Sir Nicholas Mostyn, High Court Judge

Sir Nicholas Mostyn, High Court Judge

It is vitally important to dismiss three prevalent myths concerning ‘Shared Parenting’:

Firstly, ‘Shared Parenting’ does not necessitate a precise 50/50 division of parenting time. This would prove highly unworkable in many cases. Furthermore, most sensible parents are perfectly capable of understanding this important point. It is entirely possible for a non-resident parent to maintain ‘meaningful involvement’ in the life of his or her child at a sub-50% level of parenting time. Alternate weekends, mid-week overnight stays and half of school holidays should provide ample opportunity for a child to benefit from the ‘meaningful’ input of its non-resident parent. Any shared parenting plan would need to be based upon the particular circumstances of the family members.

Secondly, if there is evidence of any significant danger to the child, contact can and will be restricted by the Court. The Government’s Children and Families Bill makes this perfectly clear, and I am very surprised that those who oppose ’Shared Parenting’ legislation appear quite blind to this very important safe-guard. The Bill does not undermine the Paramountcy Principle of the Children Act (1989) in any way.

Thirdly, opponents of ‘Shared Parenting’ legislation claim that the judiciary already operates on the basis that both parents should be meaningfully involved in their child’s upbringing. If this were true, why do they object to enshrining the practice into law? They are plainly unaware of the fact that resident parents applying to remove their children overseas will, in most cases, be granted permission, due to the application of Payne v Payne (2001). Plainly, it is almost impossible for a non-resident parent to be meaningfully involved in the parenting of a child who is residing on the opposite side of the planet!

Furthermore, many perfectly good and conscientious parents can face months or even years of exclusion from the lives of their children. Resident parents can exclude good non-resident parents simply by refusing to abide by contact orders or by maliciously lodging false or exaggerated claims of domestic violence. Proving their innocence can take many months of arduous and cripplingly expensive legal struggle, and it is hardly surprising that many of these good non-resident parents simply give up the fight.

The law needs to protect a child’s right to be parented by both its parents; it needs to encourage non-resident parents to assume their parenting responsibilities, and it needs to discourage resident parents from using obstructive tactics.

The Government’s Children and Families Bill aims to achieve these noble objectives, in the best interests of children.

Best regards
Bruno D’Itri



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