Shared parenting scares a lot of soon-to-be-divorced parents. The whole idea of being separated from their child for any length of time is upsetting -- and many parents start out wanting sole physical custody of their children following the divorce.
Well, sole physical custody isn't the way that the family court system prefers to handle child custody these days. There's an abundance of evidence that says that -- in most cases -- children do better when they maintain strong connections with both of their parents.
When isn't shared parenting a good idea?
The only time shared parenting is a bad idea is when the children would be actively in danger while they're with their other parent. In other words, situations where the other parent has:
- Uncontrolled mental illness that is severe enough to make him or her lose touch with reality
- A drug addiction that could cause him or her to neglect or endanger the children
- A problem with alcoholism that could do the same
- A history of violence against the children or other family members
Most of the time, these are situations that required the children to be protected from the other parent even before the divorce -- not something that suddenly emerges as the divorce begins.
What doesn't make shared parenting a bad idea?
A lot of parents think that they can't manage shared parenting because their relationship with their soon-to-be ex-spouse is simply too caustic. Well, research shows that:
- It doesn't matter if the parents remain "high-conflict" with each other as long as the children have roughly equal access to both.
- Infants and toddlers don't suffer from weakened bonds with their mothers due to shared parenting.
- It doesn't matter if the parents in a shared parenting situation have drastically different parenting styles. In fact, they usually do. The kids adapt.
- Maintaining contact with both parents can offset any damage from poor parenting or parental conflict in the long run.
What does this all mean? It means that you don't have to have a good relationship with your ex-spouse to make shared parenting work. Even if you end up operating two drastically different households, the children will benefit just by being around you both.
If you're struggling with a child custody issue, it may be wise to find out more about how the law applies to your specific situation.