Research: Shared care questioned

Research: Shared care questioned

Academic and former Family Court judge Richard Chisholm and his co-researcher Jennifer McIntosh have queried whether shared care arrangements as ordered by the Family law Courts are working.

It appears that shared care may well be being ordered by focussing on the parents’ rights rather than what is in the best interests of the children. They say:

“(O)ne might think that shared care arrangements are only put into place when the parents are able to work harmoniously, or at least civilly, and are able to protect the children from exposure to hostility, sharp words, denigration, and the like. But the findings cast doubt on this comfortable assumption.

“In one study involving over 300 children, 27% were in shared care arrangements. In these cases, the fathers reported consistently higher frequencies of minor conflict, serious verbal conflict and major conflict with their former wives throughout that year; and the mothers were more likely than mothers in other sorts of arrangements to feel that their former partner did not believe they were good parents. In the second study, in 73% of the shared care cases resolved at court, at least one parent reported ‘almost never’ co-operating with the other. And in 39% of shared care cases, a parent reported ‘never’ being able to protect their children from their conflict.

“Such findings are concerning, because they suggest that a significant proportion of these children emerged from Family Court proceedings with substantially shared care arrangements that occurred in an atmosphere that placed psychological strain on the child. Dr McIntosh’s research suggests that children are particularly at risk when certain factors are present, such as parents having low levels of maturity and insight; poor emotional availability of parents to the child; ongoing, high levels of inter-parental conflict; ongoing significant psychological acrimony between parents; and one or both parents seeing the child as being at risk when in the care of the other.”

They say that the test about whether shared care should be ordered should be:

Will a shared living arrangement in this parental context lead to an experience for the child of being richly shared, or deeply divided?

For a summary of their report, click here.

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