In recent weeks, the Australian Institute of Family Studies has published a number of significant research findings related to the effectiveness of the 2006 ‘shared parenting’ reforms. Shared parenting is defined as where a child spends five or more nights each fortnight with each parent following separation.

Arguably as a result of the reforms, the issue of `equal time’ or the `number of nights’ enjoyed by each parent with a child has become central to the assessment of the “quality” of a parent’s relationship with a child following separation. One particular study was focused upon the issue of equal time in the context of two particularly vulnerable groups, school age children in high conflict separations and infants/preschoolers.

Put simply, the findings of the research include:

– That parents who had beneficial shared care arrangements in place lived near each other, tried to respect the competence of the other parent, and were flexible and accommodating rather than rigid in their approach
– For school age children, nurturing relationships with each parent and supportive relationships between parents had greater bearing on many outcomes than the actual time spent with each parent (in other words, acrimony and conflict are really dangerous to a child’s development)
– Rigid arrangements, often fuelled by acrimony and poor cooperation between parents, was associated with higher depressive and anxiety symptoms for school age children
– Regardless of parental cooperation and acrimony, shared overnight care of children less than four (4) years of age had an independent and significantly damaging impact on several emotional and behavioural outcomes for little people
– As children grow older, and particularly once they have developed the capacity to self-soothe and anticipate what each day will bring (generally around the age of 4 to 5), they are better able to straddle households in a shared overnight arrangement
– The research does not support using `shared care’ as the starting point for infants and children under four years
– Shared care will be a viable option for older children where parents can work together, are attuned to their children and prepared to be flexible
– Arrangements may need to change over time in order to be responsive to the changing needs of each child.

While it is anticipated that the above research will heavily influence the outcome of family law disputes concerning parenting arrangements for children, every situation is unique, and requires specialist legal and psychological advice.

The information contained herein is not intended to be a complete statement of the law on any subject and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice in specific fact situations.

More information can be obtained from Best Wilson Buckley Solicitors Toowoomba.

The information contained herein is not intended to be a complete statement of the law on any subject and should not be used as a substitute for legal advice in specific fact situations.