Shared care is not always the best option

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The concept of 50-50 shared care of children by separated or divorced parents has been called into question by a specialist family lawyer.

Divorce Separation Family

As pressure groups continue to lobby for 'equal parenting', family solicitor Judith McAras is concerned that the issue does not necessarily lend itself to rigid solutions.

Judith, who is a partner in Simpson Millar's Family Law team, believes children often prefer and benefit from having a stable home with one parent and regular, long-term contact with the other.

Her view is underscored by research at Leeds University that suggests children of divorced couples want to maintain full relationships with both parents, but do not feel comfortable 'between two homes'.

"Being lawyers, we sometimes make assumptions about shared care, but this might need to be reviewed in light of reports from children, now in their twenties and thirties, who were brought up by separated parents," said Judith.

"There is a significant body of opinion among this group that the 50-50 approach is not necessarily a pleasant experience for the children, whose needs must and should always be paramount in the decision making process."

Judith believes the experiences of individuals brought up by separated parents have resulted in a genuine desire for more equitable arrangements for their own children in the event of a break-up. She said: "The attitude of those who were brought up by one parent and barely saw the other – usually their father –is not something they want their own children to experience.

"Where people of divorced parents find themselves in a similar situation, my experience is that there is a greater commitment to make things work in the interests of the children. Of course acrimony can be hard to avoid when relationships break down, but we are seeing a far greater desire from both parties to make the split amicable and maintain a healthy relationship for the sake of the children. That has to be a positive development and something we as family lawyers should focus on when advising divorcing couples."


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