The International Council on Shared Parenting, an organization dedicated to studying co-parenting as well as the best interests and needs of children after parent separation, is a non-profit organization. The Council’s stated goals are, first, the advancement of scientific knowledge on the needs and best interests of children whose parents are living apart, and second, to formulate evidence-based recommendations about the legal, judicial, and practical implementation of shared parenting.
The Council has built a vast database of research that examines the effects of shared parenting on children and families over the years. It seeks to incorporate this scientific knowledge into family practice and law. As a Council member, I believe our greatest accomplishment was the publication of several consensus statements on shared parenting and the best interest of children.
For example, the first of our six conclusions, released in 2014, stated: “There is a consensus that shared parenting is a viable post-divorce parenting arrangement that is optimal to child development and well-being, including for children of high conflict parents.” The best way to improve a child’s health and well-being was to spend at most one-third of their time with each parent. The closer it got to 50-50 the greater the benefits.
Seven conclusions were reached in the second consensus statement. They included: “The legal implementation and assumption of shared parental responsibilities, as well as the presumption and exercise of shared rights with respect to the parenting of children by parents who live separately or together, [should] be enshrined in law.”
The Council sought to establish whether our 2018 conference had reached a point where it was reasonable to conclude that children’s best interests are compatible with a legal presumption of shared parental responsibility for families and children. Or, to put it another way, are we at a place where the scientific evidence points in favor of mandating that shared parental responsibility becomes the foundation for family law?
The answer to these questions was distilled by Dr. Sanford Braver: “I think shared parenting now has enough evidence… [that] the burden of proof should now fall to those who oppose it rather than those who promote it.” Our fourth conference took this further, calling upon the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, governments, and professional associations to identify shared parenting as a fundamental right of children.
Our fifth conference in 2020 was about the intersection of family violence and shared parenting. This conference revealed how much knowledge has been gained about family violence in contested cases regarding child custody.
The conference’s seven conclusions were divided into recommendations for theory development and further research, as well as law reform, policy and professional practice. It was confirmed that shared parenting can be a viable post-divorce parenting arrangement which is best for child development, well-being, and even children with high-conflict families.
Sharing parenting is a strong defense against family violence. In contested cases of child custodial, we rejected the presumption that shared parenting was possible and we advocate shared parenting as the cornerstone of family law reform.
We also concluded that shared parenting was a good arrangement for most children and families, even high-conflict ones, but not for those who are subject to substantiated child abuse or family violence. Therefore, we supported a legal presumption that shared parenting is not allowed in cases of family violence.
The Council brings together scientists working in the field shared parenting, who can disseminate current research; child and parent legal and mental healthcare practitioners who specialize on the topic of parental separation and who are able share information about best practices with children or families; and members the public who actively engage in the politics for law reform in order to establish shared parenting at the core of family law.
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The Sixth International Conference on Shared Parenting, will take place in Athens from April 5-7, 2023.
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