Going through a divorce is among the most emotional events you can experience. You’re angry or hurt. You may have real grievances against your divorcing spouse. You may not see any way to co-parent positively with your ex. But you want to make the right decisions for your kids.
Is there a “right answer” as to how much time the kids should spend with each parent? No; each family’s situation is different. However, there is good evidence that children thrive best – in most cases – when they spend significant time with both parents.
International Organization Calls for a Presumption In Favor of Shared Parenting
There is an organization called the International Council on Shared Parenting. Its goal is to build an international consensus on what works in shared parenting, based on scientific research. The group consists of legal and mental health specialists and others who want to know what the science says about parental separation and shared parenting.
The group reached a significant consensus several years ago that was highlighted recently in Psychology Today:
“There is a consensus that shared parenting is a viable post-divorce parenting arrangement that is optimal to child development and well-being, including for children of high conflict parents.”
Moreover, the organization concluded that kids’ well-being is supported best when they spend at least one-third of their time with each parent. And, kids see increasing benefits the closer they get to spending about 50% of their time with each parent.
So there’s a starting point. Your kids should probably spend at least 30% and up to 50% of their time with each parent, all things being equal.
Is That True in Situations of Abuse?
It depends. The Council recommends that the law enshrine a presumption that shared parenting will benefit kids and is therefore in their best interest. However, that presumption can be rebutted by evidence of substantiated abuse or neglect.
However, the group’s latest conference looked specifically at the chance for family violence in shared parenting arrangements and concluded the same thing. Kids are generally better off in shared parenting arrangements even when there has been conflict in the family.
Therefore, it continued to support the presumption that parents will share their parenting time roughly equally unless the situation says otherwise.
Again, Every Family Situation Is Different
We’re not here to push an equal custody situation on you – or fight one. This group may be influential, but their conclusions may not meet your family’s needs. What a family lawyer ought to do is listen to you carefully and discuss your options honestly.
You and your kids shouldn’t have to bear the brunt of an aggressive legal battle. It’s important to work with an attorney who listens compassionately and who will work to make your goals a reality.