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Shared Parenting After Divorce

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Family law solicitors say that shared parenting after divorce isn’t an easy option. It takes time to organise and requires tremendous commitment and a large dose of pragmatism, and a willingness to compromise to make it work for parents and most importantly for the children.

In this article, our family law solicitors look at shared or co-parenting options after separation or divorce.

Online and London Family Law Solicitors

For family law legal advice call the expert London family lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

The advantages of shared parenting

In an age where most parents both need to work full or part-time to pay their bills and to cope with the cost of living crisis, it is particularly hard to look after children as a single parent after a separation or divorce, especially when you don’t have extended family living locally who can help out with childcare or to provide emergency cover or just offer you the occasional night off from looking after the kids.

Shared parenting can provide you with the support you need provided you get the balance right and both parents respect one another and your abilities as parents whilst also being willing to compromise on parenting styles so you achieve a measure of consistent parenting.

Who does shared parenting work for?

Family lawyers know that shared or co-parenting does not work for all separated or divorcing couples. For example:

  • Where there has been domestic violence in the relationship and a partner wants to use ongoing contact because of the children and handovers to continue their abuse
  • In cases where a partner has exercised coercive control and wants to share the care of the children with you so they can continue to bombard you with communications and try to control you in much the same way as they did whilst you were in a relationship with them
  • There are physical or psychological risks for the children in having extensive contact with their other parent. For example, if the parent has alcohol or drug dependency issues that impact on their parenting abilities
  • Geographic distance between homes (either within Greater London, the UK or when one parent is based overseas) makes equal shared parenting physically impossible

There are also many situations where one parent is the main breadwinner or the high earner and their work is necessary to help them pay spousal maintenance and child support that in turn enables the other parent to limit their work to locally-based part-time work.

In some scenarios, you may not think that co-parenting will work because of your ex-partner’s attitude to childcare during the time you lived together. However, sometimes a relationship breakdown helps a parent focus on what is important to them and to adjust their work or social commitments to prioritise the children.

In other situations, you may not want to sit down to discuss shared parenting because you want to punish your ex-partner because they left you or because they let you down financially, or because they have met a new partner and you haven’t.  These are all good reasons for hurt and anger but are not a sound basis to decide on what parenting arrangements best meet your child’s needs or support you.

Thinking outside the box

When you were parenting together you may have slipped into traditional roles of one parent doing the vast majority of the childcare and parenting and the other working. That can lead to assumptions being made that the status quo must continue after your separation or divorce or that the other parent is either uninterested or incapable.

A relationship breakdown can give the impetus for a parent to ask for flexible work hours, hybrid working, or working from home so that they can ‘step up’ and take a more active parenting role. Even if their work hours or location mean that you can't split the children’s time equally between you, they may still be able to co-parent by supporting you and working on a parenting plan that combines quality contact time for them with support for you. After all, a mid-week contact visit may not just benefit the children but also allow you to get to a gym class or meet friends and escape from 24-hour-a-day parenting responsibilities.

Overcoming obstacles to shared parenting

If you want to try shared parenting it is important to look at what the obstacles are to giving it a go or making it work. Examples of obstacles include:

  • Worry that if the other parent shares the care of the children, then they will want full custody or that the children will prefer spending time with the other parent
  • The children will be confused – although most children are remarkably resilient and will be happy with whatever parenting plan makes their parents happy. Children tend to suffer when they see friction and arguments between parents or when parenting styles and rules are vastly different between the 2 households so the child doesn’t ever feel settled in either home
  • The other parent will not be able to cope with the child’s needs. For example, nappy changing or looking after a child with extra needs such as autism. However, even if their care isn’t perfect or as good as yours, it is important that children spend time with both parents
  • The extended family has traditional views and thinks that the children need one home and that care should not be shared with the other parent, who should be restricted to contact every other weekend
  • Concern that the other parent will not be able to handle the practical arrangements, such as monitoring the children’s homework or feeding them the sort of balanced diet that you want your children to benefit from

Parenting plans

Successful co-parents often have a parenting plan. Whilst some are verbal, it can help to commit your plan to writing as a means of thinking about what aspects of parenting are important to you and to help make your shared parenting regime work. For example, for some parents, it is important to be in charge of haircuts whilst other parents may take a more relaxed approach to whether the other parent sorts out a hair appointment.

Family law solicitors recommend that your parenting plan covers:

  • Parenting regime and handovers
  • Notice needed to change the regime and how best to communicate, for example, by text or WhatsApp
  • Parenting styles and rules, such as rules on screen time, homework, diet, and sugar consumption, etc
  • Holiday decisions. For example, how the school hols are split and how special holiday contact is sorted out, such as Christmas, Eid, or Mother’s or Father’s Day
  • The introduction of new partners to the children and how and when that will happen
  • Education – whether it is private or state and the preferred choice of school

Whether you have agreed on an equal parenting split or a 60/40 split it is important to get these types of ‘house rules’ sorted so there is less chance of fall-outs and a greater chance that your children will enjoy being co-parented.

Family law solicitors can help you negotiate the tricky parts of your parenting plan through solicitor negotiations, and roundtable meetings, and if you can't reach any agreement on child custody or contact, support you with representation in a child arrangement order application.

Online and London Family Law Solicitors

For family law legal advice call the expert London family lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.

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