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Shared care – is it the best thing for you and your children?

Fathers are more hands on than ever before but children in the UK are still mostly cared for by their mothers. For most parents, work commitments are the biggest barrier to a more equal sharing of time with children.

Although there are parents with flexible or shift work that allows them a more equal role in bringing up their children, most families still follow the traditional model of dad as breadwinner and mum as primary carer.

When parents separate, they are forced to rethink their childcare arrangements. It might seem like the most logical solution is to continue with a similar arrangement to when you were together.

If you are the children’s main care provider, you might argue that it’s best for the children to live with you, and minimise the changes they are already going through. If you are not the main carer, you might worry that you will start to become less important in your children’s lives if they only get to see you occasionally.

While there is never an easy answer to this question, it’s important to remember that the children’s needs come first – this is how a court would approach the question too. If you and the child’s other parent can get along and communicate well, then it’s much more likely that you’ll be able have a successful shared parenting arrangement.

The following questions may help you see if shared care would work for your children

  • Can you communicate and negotiate fairly about the children?
  • Do you respect your ex as a parent despite your relationship disappointments and personal differences?
  • Can you put your personal disagreements and conflicts to one side and focus on what the children need?
  • Can you compromise when there are disagreements?
  • Are you willing to share control with your ex and respect the autonomy of their household?
  • Do you have similar values around parenting?
  • Can you tolerate your differences?
  • Can you distinguish between the important and unimportant differences?
  • Do you value what the other parent has to offer your child?
  • Are you willing to put in extra time and effort to co-ordinate schedules?
  • Is your child good at handling transitions?
  • Did you share childcare when you were together?
  • If not, is there a commitment to increase sharing now?

This is just a guideline but, if you answer yes to most of these questions, then you may be more successful at coming to a shared care agreement. If there are lots of no's, or just one or two that you’re concerned about, then it might be better to consider another type of arrangement that would suit your children better. Or, you could work on the problem areas with your ex. Using Family mediation may be helpful.

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