The Shared Parenting Movement
The landscape of separated family systems continues to evolve. A current trend is shared parenting.
The National Parents Organization was founded in 1998. Its mission is to improve the lives of children and strengthens society by protecting every child’s right to the love and care of both parents after separation or divorce. It seeks to better lives for children through family court reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers.
A December 11th article in the Washington Post highlights a nationwide push to move toward shared parenting that the NPO has played a big role. Over 20 states considered laws to promote shared custody after divorce.
These bills encourage, and in come cases make it a legal presumption that mothers and fathers should engage in shared parenting even if they disagree. For example, Kentucky has passed a law to make joint physical custody and equal parenting time standard for temporary orders while a divorce is being finalized. In Michigan, lawmakers are considering a bill that would make equal parenting time the starting point for custody decisions.
The outcomes from the move toward shared parenting are promising. A June 20th blog post by Dr. Linda Nielsen at the Institute of Family Studies website relayed 10 Surprising Findings on Shared Parenting After Divorce or Separation. The author reviewed 54 studies that compared children’s outcomes in shared and sole physical custody families independent of family income and parental conflict. Among the findings that emerged from her research:
- In the 54 studies—absent situations in which children needed protection from an abusive or negligent parent even before their parents separated— children in shared-parenting families had better outcomes than children in sole physical custody families.
- Infants and toddlers in JPC families have no worse outcomes than those in SPC families.
- When the level of parental conflict was factored in, JPC children still had better outcomes across multiple measures of well-being.
- Even when family income was factored in, JPC children still had better outcomes.
- Most JPC parents do not mutually or voluntarily agree to the plan at the outset.
- Maintaining strong relationships with both parents by living in JPC families appears to offset the damage of high parental conflict and poor co-parenting.
Pennsylvania is not listed as one of the states that has considered shared parenting legislation. Given the positive results that are occurring from its implementation, perhaps it is time have a discussion about it here.