Catching up on my reading here at WIM, this article caught my eye. Have y'all read it yet? What do you think?
When my ex and I divorced, our son was 17, so custody wasn't a factor for long, and we were cooperative about it. My (current) husband and his ex have a shared-custody arrangement (unequal, but shared). It works well, and they've both been pretty good about keeping it focused on their kids' welfare, regardless of how they get along (or don't). And if you can be consistent about that, I agree it's probably a very good arrangement.
But there are times and situations when parents can't manage their own relationship well enough to make it work. And there are situations where it's probably best for the kids to limit one parent's time with them - and for that reason I don't think mandating shared parenting is a good idea.
I work for a social-services agency in the child-welfare area, and the push from the county is for "family reunification." I don't disagree that intact families are a desirable thing, but I do think dysfunctional, unhealthy families aren't, and that a family situation shouldn't be forced. It's not a perfect analogy, but I think shared parenting isn't something that should be forced either.
But that's just my opinion...I'm curious about yours.
It's interesting to read your comments on shared parenting. This is a really tough week for me, my divorce is becoming final. I've been battling for custody for a year. With many dollars sunk into attorneys I was awarded full custody. My kids are little so shared parenting would be difficult on them. My husband gets them every other weekend and the kids are returned exhausted and it takes days to get them back to normal. They are my heartbeat and I couldn't imagine being with them, its hard enough on the weekends I don't have them. But aside from my own feelings, it wouldn't be good for the kids, they need structure, they count on structure and it makes them feel secure. They need their Dad, they deserve his love, and it will be essential for them to grow up well balanced. Unfortunately our situation doesn't allow for communication, there is no trust there, so it makes it impossible to co-parent. So in a longwinded way, you have to have a really good situation and most importantly two reasonable adults for shared parenting to work.
I think I commented on that article that I figure that, except when it can be proven to be bad for the children in some measurable way, shared parenting should be the default option. I believe this as a principle, but I admit to some ambivalence about it. It's just not so clear-cut, emotionally.
My children went back and forth for ten years before they all three decided they'd rather live with me full-time. Prior to that, they'd spent Saturday mornings through Monday mornings (he took them to school) with their dad. Let me make one thing very clear: I neither like nor respect their father.
However, he is their father, and so I didn't fight shared parenting. Conversations between us re: the kids have almost always been accomplished via email, because neither of us enjoys face-to-face much. We can do it, we've even shared a smile now and then, but it's not our first choice. We parent very differently. I never thought that shared parenting meant that both households had to be the same. He did it his way, I did it mine. The children managed it: from their perspective, there were perks and downsides to each household's style.
There were times when my youngest did not want to go. I recall hauling her out from under the dining room table by her ankles on memorable morning. Had she been my only child, the arrangement would have stopped right there, but the other two assured me that once she got to daddy's house, she was fine. She just didn't like the transition. But was it hard? Yes, it was hard. An example of principle winning over emotions.
Looking back over the years, there are things I would have done differently -- like not making the youngest go that weekend -- but all in all, I don't regret it. That the children have now all chosen to live with me fulltime is confirmation of my feelings about the man's ability to maintain relationships. It's nice that it came from the kids, not something I decided for them, and they have gone through a necessary process with their dad. One that probably isn't over yet, but one that they needed to do, for themselves.