Shared Parenting: Challenging Questions

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  • February 6, 2017

Parents who are struggling to develop a balanced, functional, and appropriate shared residential and decision-making arrangement for their children after separation or divorce may find it to be a difficult exercise. Not only are there logistical considerations, such as how to pick up and drop off the children at educational facilities, activities, and health centres, but there are also several underlying emotional concerns.

It’s tough to release old habits and start afresh. Forthright responses reveal information which can calm anxieties. Stepping away from the polarities exposes a continuum of possible solutions from which parents can agree may be best for their children. Here are a few common issues to start the conversation.

Healthy parent-child relationships: A safe and secure relationship between parent and child where social, cognitive, fun, skills building and other developmental advantages may look different and still offer excellent opportunities for each child. Gather information before dismissing out of hand what appears dissimilar.

Respecting the maximum contact principle: The custody provisions of Canada’s Divorce Act contain the ‘maximum contact’ principle. Courts across Canada have understood the universal applicability of this principle to unmarried partnerships as well.  Although the legislation requires parents to apply and respect the principle, its application must relate to the best interests of the child.  A child’s welfare, health, security, safety, and other importance factors will absolutely be considered in the appraisal of the children’s needs and circumstances.

Blended families: Admitting that the other parent offers guidance, safe experiences, good food choices, and makes other daily decisions in the best interests of the children can be an easy conclusion given that the parents usually have had the historical opportunity to observe each other with their children. The confidence that each parent has in the abilities and parenting skills of the significant partner of a former spouse can be an arduous journey, which takes time, maturity and reasonableness. Does an inflexible set of rules offer a better home than gentle parenting allows a child to experience successes and failures?

Family Realities:  Traditional families with mom at home raising the children, while dad worked long hours at the family business are few and far between in today’s world. The nuclear family has morphed into flexible structures of relationships, and work is where the portable Internet router will take you. These realities offer families a new paradigm of child care opportunities which demand patience, creativity, and adaptability. Judges are recognizing the need to allow families to find their way blending the maximum contact principle with the best interests of the child.

Each family is defined by its members and circumstances. Allowing changes from the way things were done to how they may be shaped for today’s families keeps the children’s needs up front.

Lorisa Stein is an experienced senior family law lawyer based in downtown Toronto, Ontario. She has utilized the collaborative method to help traditional and blended families resolve their shared parenting issues. To schedule a confidential consultation with Lorisa, call her direct line at (416) 596-8081, or email her at lorisa@lorisastein.com.

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