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Why enforcing shared parenting is a mistake

Earlier this week, I learnt that Italy’s coalition government intend to make a fundamental change to the country’s laws that, should it come to pass, will have a substantial effect on couples that separate or divorce: they intend to make shared parenting compulsory.

On the face of things, many people view shared parenting as the best possible arrangement a couple can reach following them having separated. It would – if it worked – ensure that the children involved maintain a relationship with both of their parents, that the parents themselves are afforded significant periods of rest and abolishes the need for one party to provide the other with child support. A government spokesperson has even gone on record describing such arrangements as “perfect co-parenting”. Whilst such arrangements may make sense on paper, however, they are rarely in the best interests of any children that are involved.

Shared parenting can harm children

A significant amount of research looking into the effects of divorce on children has been conducted with the resultant consensus being that a divorce itself does not necessarily harm children. Rather, it is arrangements and parental behaviour that is most likely to have a substantially adverse effect on children; specifically, children who are subjected to disruptive arrangements and whose parents are openly hostile towards one another.

This reveals the first major problem with shared parenting: having to spend an equal (or at the very least comparable) amount of time with both parents facilitates frequent change. In the event that either parent needs to relocate, this problem is exacerbated.

It’s also highly likely that parents will be required to be creative in order to meet the terms of such an agreement and, as this will lead to them needing to communicate with one another whilst the need to solve a problem has left them feeling anxious creating an environment within which their relationship is likely to degenerate.

Why parents shouldn’t be forced to spend time with their children

Whilst no one would dispute that the ideal post-divorce arrangement would see the children of the marriage have a relationship with both of their parents, forcing a child and there parent to spend time with one another will do more harm than good.

Sadly, there are parents that do not want to spend time with their children. The reasons why are multiple and I do not condone this in any way but, as a negative relationship with a parent can have a long-term and negative effect on a person’s mental health, enforcing contact is simply not in a child’s best interest.  

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