The observation that separated couples rarely get along with each other would come as no revelation to anyone. It is generally relationship problems that lead to the separation in the first place.
Yet these relationship difficulties are often used by the Family Court as the basis for refusing shared parenting and for restricting a father’s contact with his children. I know of one case where a judge, who found no fault with a father, refused the father contact with his child, purely because of the mother’s intense hatred of the father and her vindictive behaviour towards him. In this judgement, the Wisdom of Solomon did not prevail.
Relationship difficulties between parents are also presented by the opponents of shared parenting as the main reason for their opposition. I know of no non-custodial parents who oppose shared parenting on this basis. These shared parenting opponents are invariably the custodial parents.
The current legislative environment and social security system puts custodial parents and their children in a very difficult position. Shared parenting would require the surrender of a large part of their income: parenting payments, family allowance and Child Support Agency ‘entitlements’. The security of their income, determined by legislation, usually becomes an overriding and understandable concern in the unwillingness to negotiate fair parenting arrangements. This fundamental problem and hindrance was largely ignored by the recent parliamentary inquiry into child custody arrangements.
It is worth noting that public schools require no parent / teacher relationship prerequisites in determining class structures and allotting children to teachers. In fact, a consideration of the quality of the existing parent / teacher relationship is given not even a passing thought. Despite this, teachers often have contact with children equal to that of the parents.
Quite often, and for various reasons, there is little or no interaction between teachers and parents. This is also usually the way children prefer it. There is no reason why post-separation shared parenting cannot function in a similar way and with equal success.
The value of a father’s contact with his children is far greater than that of a teacher.
[Photo by Ksenia Chernaya