Shared Residence

I have recently read a really interesting article in the November issue of Family Law by Liz Trinder, entitled Shared Residence: A Review of Recent Research Evidence.

For those of us who are attracted by the idea of shared residence it comes as something of a disappointment to discover through this article that the research tends to suggest that whilst satisfaction rates for fathers are high, in many cases shared residence represents a less than optimum outcome from the perspective of the children who have to live with it. Professor Trinder carefully analyses the evidence base, acknowledging that there are gaps in it, but the overarching theme is clear: shared residence can sometimes be a real burden for children. The disadvantages can be, says Trinder, ‘having to move constantly back and forth, not having a single place to call home, leaving things behind and conflict between parents’. These things are often said by resident parents, CAFCASS officers and judges, but often without an evidence base. This article provides that evidence, raising such arguments above mere common sense statements of opinion.

One other important factor in satisfaction levels for children appears to have been whether or not they have had a say in the arrangements that have been made.

There is, of course, always a risk where parents agree matters between them that the arrangements they settle on will meet parental need but overlook the children’s needs or wishes, and this risk must I think be heightened in shared residence cases. What matters for children is quality time and good experiences with both parents; by contrast the drive towards shared residence can be seen as focusing on quantity of time and the need to achieve formal equality as between parents. Kids don’t care about 40% or 60%. They care about fun, hugs, routine, knowing they are loved and supported by all their family.

It is interesting to reflect on the warnings that this research sounds, when set against a backdrop of caselaw that is increasingly pro-shared residence. The reference for those wishing to locate a paper copy is [2010] Fam Law 1192.

6 thoughts on “Shared Residence

  1. […] time. I have posted my thoughts on that before and I don’t propose to repeat them (see here (incidentally I think this is the same survey referred to today by John Bolch here) and here). I do […]

  2. GGood Fathers must have Equality

  3. The evidence that Trinder bases her work on is unreliable. Of the various studies available, Trinder takes the one that suits her best and ignores those better ones that say the opposite, the stats have been analysed ( But does Trinder as an academic correct the situation? Quite the contrary; she keeps on, lately about how unbiased the family courts are. She should read exposes like Naughty Noras Dirty Divorce Tricks. OK anyone can make mistakes, but continuing on the same path tastes of bias, something very unacademic.

  4. Dr. Linda Nielsen in her latest article
    “Shared residential custody: Review of the Research” (American Journal of Family Law, Jan 2013) appears to more than rebut Trinder’s out-dated views. Trinder’s paper, one should recall relies too heavily on single mothers or ‘never married’ couples – bith sub-sets have a list of social/personal disadvantages linked to their marital status.
    Too much weight is given in many anti-shared parenting papers to what is referred to as ‘high conflict’ families – neatly overlooking that these families represent only about 5% of the total.
    To many of the anti-shared parenting studies cited are often found to be based on small, non-random samples of anywhere between 130 and 200, thereby questioning their authotity.
    For example, France, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Australia, Norway, Wisconsin, Arizona, Washington state all have some form of shared parenting or alternating residence.
    Why are British children so uniquely handicapped (at birth or by their genes) that they cannot cope with alternating between two set homes ?

  5. The problem with giving too much consideration to ‘what the children want’ is that it is way to easy for that state to be abused. Time and time again I come across cases where the child is manipulated, bribed, alienated to the point of ‘wanting’ the state of affairs that the manipulating,bribing, alienating parent desires them to want.
    One case I was involved in the mother allowed the teenage boy (13)to be out late, smoke in the house and go in cars with not much older boys late at the weekend. The boy wanted that. He didn’t want the rules the boundaries and the discipline that Dad had.
    As one FC lawyer said to me when the notion of the children wishes was given much more importance after a change in the law in 2005 – ‘in too many cases we have given children the power of judges – that’s not in their best interests.’

  6. Robert Mellor

    Statistically speaking the only really solid study is Bausermann (2002) available at which Nielsen unfortunately overlooks. Amongst the many interesting conclusions is that in high-conflict cases the degree of conflict often lessens when equal custody is given, an effect commonly attributed to forcing the hostile parent away from domination to a position where they must negotiate. Of course if the hostility really is implacable then the hostile parent may see themselves “forced” (as Ken, blogpost above, says) to manipulate, bribe and alienate their children. That is why there is a move in the UK to criminalize alienation “That parental alienation exists, and is understood as a form of child abuse, as perpetuated by the resident parent” ( I think that in this case actually measuring alienation accurately will be the stumbling block, especially as organizations like CAFCASS and NYAS seem blind to it. In my limited experience NYAS etc report verbatum what the child says and ignore if the child has been influenced at all.

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