Shared parenting refers to a joint custody arrangement where both parents share approximately equal parenting time. However, it is an option that is still widely misunderstood, as evidenced in these shared parenting myths:
- "Shared Parenting is impossible to pull off." This is simply not true. As the implementation of Shared Parenting Legislation continues to spread, more and more parents are learning how to co-parent well. It can be done, and in situations where the child previously enjoyed relationships with two fit, involved parents, shared parenting is an option that should not be overlooked.
- "It's unfair to expect a child to live in two different homes." Making the adjustment to living in two homes is certainly a challenge that requires a lot of patience, encouragement, and collaboration. When it is done well, it can actually be ideal for the children. What would truly be unfair, however, would be expecting the child to forfeit part of his or her relationship with one parent in order to accommodate both parents' determination to avoid learning how to parent well as collaborative partners.
- "Divorced parents are way too contentious to equally share the responsibility of raising their kids together." Again, this is not true. Parents who were once married and have decided to terminate their marital relationship must transition to a different way of relating. With the help of mediators and parent educators, divorced parents can learn how to reshape their working relationship into one that is beneficial for the children.
- "Regular visits are sufficient." While regular visits are critical for families whose current custody agreement does not include shared parenting, they are a poor substitute for the relationship that the parent and child would have enjoyed if they were still living together.
- "When parents share custody, the child suffers because he or she receives less child support." It is true that in situations where a family is transitioning from one parent being the primary custodial parent to both parents sharing approximately equal parenting time, the amount of child support paid by the previously non-custodial parent may decrease. However, this is because that parent now spends more time directly with the child, and as a result, is paying for the child's needs in a more direct manner while the child is under his/her care.
- "Shared parenting is too inconvenient." Getting used to shared parenting can feel like an inconvenience in the beginning. However, there are also a lot of benefits to both parents having an established routine of alternating responsibility for caring for the children. For example, parents with a regular shared parenting routine can schedule their working hours while the child is with the other parent and, as a result, reduce or eliminate the need for child care. It also allows each parent to build in some regular "me time" while the child is in the care of the other parent.
In closing, shared parenting is an option that should not be overlooked. It does require both parents to put the needs of the child ahead of their own unresolved anger and personal preferences. However, with help from mediators and parent educators, shared parenting is an option that can be extremely beneficial for each member of the family - and especially for the children.