Does shared childcare mean 50/50?
In simple terms – no it does not.
It is a common misconception that shared care means a 50/50 split of the time spent with the child/children when parents separate. It is actually quite rare for a child to spend exactly 50% of their time with each parent in these circumstances. What shared care really means is that the child will spend specific days or times with each parent which, if the parents cannot agree, can be decided by the court.
The primary concern of the court when deciding a Shared Care Arrangements Order is the needs of the child. The court will take into consideration factors such as the age of the child, their education setting, the logistics and practicalities of daily life, the parents work commitments and other sources of support available to each parent. The relationship between the two parents will also be an influential factor.
The court will always consider that it is in the best interests of the child to have contact with both parents (unless there are exceptional circumstances) and would not ask the child to “choose” one parent over the other. However the older the child is, the more likely the Court will take into consideration their wishes as to whom they would like to spend their time with or in which parents home. Essentially the Court aims to provide an arrangement where the child spends enough time with each parent to enable them to have as full and meaningful relationship.
In the case of M (A Child) 2014, the Appeal Judge commented “Both parents have equal status. So a division of time 50/50 will remain, in my view, a rare order and only to be contemplated where there is some confidence that it will not work to the disadvantage of the child, albeit that the aim is to give good quality and substantial time with each parent.” It is important for parents to remember therefore that even though they are entitled to 50% of their child’s time, in many cases, this will not be practicable.
On the contrary in the case of F v L (2017) when hearing a mother’s appeal against granting the father with a child arrangements order for shared care, Russell J found that decisions for shared care were too often influenced by the need to adhere to the presumption of parental involvement. He concluded that ordering a child to split their time between two homes that were “antagonistic and unsupportive of each other was inconsistent with the best interests and welfare of the child”. This therefore reinforces the principle that any shared care arrangement should have the wellbeing of the child as its priority.
Ultimately what is essential for any parent who finds themselves in the position of having to decide on a shared care arrangement for their child is to try to maintain an amicable and communicative relationship with the other parent so as to facilitate their child’s day to day life. Naturally any agreement will need to accommodate a degree of flexibility and this will be best dealt with by parents who can be civil and cooperative with each other.
How we can help
The family team are specialists at dealing with matters involving children when a relationship breaks down. Contact our team today for advice.
Emma Kimber is a paralegal in the family team. Contact Emma on 01271 341011 or email [email protected]