Before I pass you over to Kat, I want to say a huge thank you for all her work on our panel over the last couple of years. Kat’s wisdom and her tender approach to some of the difficult questions she has been asked have been very much appreciated.
We wish you all the very best in the months ahead Kat. Special times
…With some of the most experienced family judges suggesting shared residence should now be the rule rather than the exception, why do some parents, solicitors and, occasionally, Courts cling to patterns of contact and living arrangements that hark back to the days when dads were breadwinners and mums were homemakers?
Society expects that our men folk get stuck into day-to-day child rearing and for many working women the idea of becoming a stay at home mother ranges from unpalatable to economically unrealistic. Care arrangements that provide for a ‘main’ parent and a ‘satellite’ parent with no real sharing of parental responsibility are outmoded and, in my view, not in the best interests of children.
Having worked in Australia at the time family law was changed to include a presumption that children should spend equal time with both parents if possible, I saw first hand the disappointment and disillusionment when parents (often dads) realised that it was rarely practical or in the best interests of their children. This is the danger when we concentrate of time instead of parenting.
Shared residence does not mean equal time
Shared residence avoids the obsession with time spent with each parent and looks at how children can spend time in the care of each parent, taking into account practicalities, work commitments, schooling and the needs of the individual children involved. A tailor-made shared residence arrangement allows both parents homework time, interface with school and down-time at weekends. Some children can cope with split weeks, some children can’t, so arrangements need to be more creative.
Shared residence does not require proximity
You can be involved in your child’s life wherever you are in the world in the 21st century. If we stop calculating periods of time and handovers, location ceases to have an impact. Mum can be in Carlisle and dad can be in Portsmouth: children may be in one parent’s care in term times and in the other parent’s in holidays.
Shared residence does not require harmony between parents
But shared residence requires a level of consultation between parents particularly with regard to joint decision-making which can often result in better communication and can improve co-parenting.
In short, shared residence firmly restates existing and equal parental responsibility. A shared residence order ensures equal parenting in the eyes of children, the other parent, the law, as well as third parties such as schools, doctors etc. There is no ‘main’ parent. Each parent is the ‘main’ carer when it is their period of care.
So, if as a parent your solicitor suggests a shared residence order grab the opportunity with both hands, for the sake of your children.
Written by Kathryn McTaggart, divorce solicitor with Woolley & Co, Solicitors based near Cardiff in Wales. Kathryn works with many separating parents, priding herself on putting the children first in the advice that she gives. For more details visit www.family-lawfirm.co.uk.