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.