50/50 Custody Schedules – Are they really in the child’s best interests?

May 21, 2009

Stories on joint physical custody arrangements seem to be everywhere lately.  Many states and countries are moving towards some sort of presumption towards joint physical custody.  Joint schedules can work great for parents dedicated to working together for their children.  But in families where the parents are working against each other instead of with each other, joint custody may do more harm than good.  Here are just a few quotes from a couple recent articles.

From the Newsweek article Not Your Dad’s Divorce:

“To make it work, we’d have to live near each other for the next 13 years, until the youngest girl was off to college. It was a commitment not unlike marriage, and, given that feelings were still raw post-divorce, neither of us thought it would be easy.”

“Forcing uncooperative couples into a joint arrangement could end up creating more parental conflict, which most experts agree is the most damaging part of a divorce for kids.”

“The willingness of both parents to cooperate is the key factor in how kids adjust to a divorce. Nickelson reminds parents that they should start creating a collaborative relationship with an ex-spouse early on. “You’re not going to sign the child-custody agreement, whatever it is, and be done with your wife or husband. I tell my clients, if you’re lucky, you’ll be sitting next to them for graduations and marriages and all kinds of achievements, so learn to get along.””

From Matthew Fynes-Clinton’s article: Children Suffer When Law Splits Parenting Equally:

“My initial thought was, ‘They’ll realise (50-50 parenting orders) are a mistake in about 10 years time – and that they’ve screwed up a generation,”

“He says, ‘(My ex-wife) keeps saying to me our daughter can have one life in your household and another life in my household’. The child’s got this sort of split personality thing happening.”

“It’s about him and me. And it’s about control,” she says, concerned about the potential of such power plays to turn their daughter into a pawn.

She says the fundamental paradox with laws encouraging mutual parenting responsibility is the contrariness of the couples who seek judicial determination of their child custody wrestle.  “The legislation is written about parents who can do (equal time parenting),” she says, “and it’s applied to parents who can’t.”

McIntosh says substantial or equal-shared care can succeed where “self-selected” by mature, child-focused couples.  “But you need two sets of everything, co-operation, geographic proximity, family friendly work practices and people to be financially comfortable. On top of that, you need the emotional equipment for it.