By Julie Garrison
Special to DadsDivorce.com
Shared parenting is emerging as the better prototype for co-parenting children after divorce with courts more frequently steering away from the every-other-weekend "visitation" schedule.
While this shared-parenting arrangement is inconvenient at times for divorced couples, it allows a child to bond with both parents. Visitation is out – shared parenting is in.
When divorcing parents are presented with the idea of shared parenting, there is an undercurrent of fear and negativity that needs to be dispelled. Couples must bear in mind that the old parenting-after-divorce model doesn't work well. It is often adversarial when it doesn't need to be.
Here are five of the most prevalent myths about shared parenting.
Myth 1: Babies and toddlers should spend the majority of time being nurtured by their mothers.
Reality: This "tender years" doctrine allows a child to bond with just one parent. The other parent is, in effect, a visitor in the child’s life.
Dr. Linda Nielsen, Professor of Educational and Adolescent Psychology at Wake Forest University, said the following about shared parenting in families with infants or preschoolers:
"...infants and preschoolers should not be separated from either parent for more than a few days because this interferes with their forming secure attachments to both parents. Young children need to become securely attached to both parents, not just to one “primary” caregiver. Both parents should be involved in the routine care-giving activities such as bathing and feeding their infants and toddlers. . . Young children benefit, adapt best and benefit most when their parents create stable, consistent routines and schedules in both homes."
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Myth 2: Divorcing couples are automatically given the option of shared parenting.
Reality: The Court will require that both parents are able to cooperate with each other and make joint decisions. They will also have to illustrate the duality of their parenting relationship even though they are no longer married. This includes setting one’s own self aside for the benefit of the children.
The couple cannot have any domestic abuse, disturbance or violence on record and must illustrate that their after-divorce relationship is not acrimonious. This includes refraining from bad-talking the other parent in front of the child.
Geographic proximity is another huge consideration in shared-parenting readiness because the children cannot be part-time in two different schools. Both parents must be willing to provide transportation of the children to and from school during their co-parenting time and also in emergencies.
Myth 3: In a shared-parenting custody arrangement, there is no child support.
Reality: Child support is commensurate with the amount of time a parent spends parenting the children. But this is not the only factor in child support.
If one parent makes significantly more money than the other parent, the child support will be equalized accordingly. This will vary from state to state, but parenting time is not the only variable considered in awarding child support to a parent.
Myth 4: "Quality" time spent with children is more beneficial than "quantity" time.
Reality: While it is important that children receive quality time with each parent, children learn the most from the parents’ behavior. All too often "magical" moments of quality time are "caught" in-between the regular daily activities of life.
The best teaching tool in a child’s life is a parent’s composure in a stressful situation, how a parent deals with frustration and loss, and an indefinite array of scenarios that children observe their parents negotiating their way through.
They won’t have this opportunity with each of their parents unless they spend large quantities of time with each parent. "Quantity" time evolves into "quality" time.
Myth 5: Raising a child in two homes will make the child unstable.
Reality: As long as custody exchanges between parents are handled calmly and amicably, it will become a regular part of that child’s life. What the parents portray as “normal” in the life of their child ends up becoming that child’s norm. The parents’ attitude is everything.
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Julie Garrison has been writing articles and short stories for the past 10 years and has appeared in several magazines and e-zines.