A commentary on the Shared Parenting Myth

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Recently, New Jersey Family Law Attorney Santo Artusa authored a Lexis-Nexis article, arguing against shared parenting.  Certified Family Life Educator Ruth Nichols obliterates that myth and schools Mr. Artusa. 

The highlighted part is from Mr. Artusa's article and his argument against shared parenting:

Mr. Artusa wrote:

There continues to be a growing trend toward shared parenting time arrangements throughout the United States, and New Jersey is no different. The theory behind shared parenting is that the children benefit from the ongoing, consistent contact with both parents. Sounds good. However, depending on the age of the children, this is very hard to implement and very hard to manage. Even in traditional homes where two parents live together with their children, keeping the house rules clear and what the household expectations are is very hard. Imagine this in two different homes, where the parents are often at complete odds with each other. Who sets the rules? What if the rules are not followed? How confusing is it for the child?

Aside from the rules, let’s talk logistics. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I do not see how shuttling a child back and forth from one home to the next every other day or every other week makes sense. Children need consistency. They need guidance; they need to know what is expected of them every day and for the rules to be clear. In two homes, with potentially four “parents”, what is a child to do? While I am not advocating only weekend and holiday time, I am advocating that a child should know where their home really is. Where their room really is, which should be in one house. They need to know, which parent makes the key everyday decisions, manages their schooling, their activities without constant fighting and friction.

While my view may be “conservative”, it is certainly practical and straightforward. Before you seek or agree to shared parenting time, take a step back and really think how your child will handle it. Think how your life may have been if you were forced into a shared parenting situation. In some cases, it may have been great, but it is my belief as a father and a family law attorney that the majority of situations benefit from a more traditional and simple parenting schedule.

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Seemingly, Mr. Artusa, the convenience issue is paramount to equal time with both parents and the healthy development of children.

My commentary is directed to Mr. Artusa:

Dear Mr. Artusa,

With all due respect, The Shared Parenting Myth is somewhat remiss. Shared Parenting is not the problem in divorce and separation; Shared Parenting is the Solution!

In three paragraphs you have misrepresented the concept of Shared Parenting. The comments regarding a child transitioning between homes obliterate the idea of the involvement of BOTH parents in a child’s life.

Divorce has a tendency to bring out the worst in people. Divorce can be a wicked event! Herein lies the dilemma. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that very few if any parents have said to their child “Mommy and daddy love you very much, and this is why we are going to get a divorce. We want you to go back and forth between our homes.”

The idea of Shared Parenting is because one or both parents have chosen divorce. In many cases, the separation is one sided. Numerous parents would remain in the marriage to provide a family for their child, and many do even when the marriage is intolerable. The concept of Shared Parenting is BECAUSE of divorce! Shared Parenting offers the opportunity for BOTH parents to parent!

Sadly, there are many parents (disproportionately, fathers) who have sacrificed everything for a mere attempt to go before a judge and ask for ‘time’ with their child. There are too many cases where parents have depleted their savings, retirement funds, sold what they did have, and borrowed from family/friends to pay legal fees to beg for more time with their kids. Child support rulings are unfair and unjust. A key point to make is that even paying child support does not ensure they can ‘see’ their child. As we all know and the statistics prove, that unfairness disproportionately affects fathers.

RESEARCH IS CONSISTENT! Research over the years reveals that a child who has no father/strong male figure in their life is MORE likely to engage in alcohol and drug use, sex and delinquent behaviors. The child is MORE likely to have physical and emotional health issues, experience social and academic problems. The Recent research assesses and is overwhelming in favor of the value of having two parents in the child’s life.

Parents do NOT want to withdraw from their child’s life. External factors drive them out! This is one reason Family Court reform is needed. I created a survey for parents to evaluate their experience in the Family Court system. www.RateMYFamilyCourt.com

One question asks “Use three words to describe your experience in the Family Court system.” To illustrate the point of the utter frustration experienced by the parents, here are the top ten descriptions:

Traumatic. Shock. Dumbfounded.

Horrible. Hell. Frustrating.

Horrifying. Traumatizing. Life-altering.

Truth doesn’t matter.

Frustrating. Voiceless. Unfair.

Unjust. Devastating. Traumatic.

Futile. Ignorant. Careless.

Trauma. Destroying. Waste.

Unfair. Waste of time. Money grabber.

I stand alone.

If you are still not convinced that Shared Parenting is not the problem, go to www.SharedParentingConfessional.com

This Shared Parenting Confessional outlines the experience of parents, adult children of divorce and children of divorce. There is a common theme showing that Shared Parenting would alleviate some of the betrayals.

This Shared Parenting Confessional outlines the experience of parents, adult children of divorce and children of divorce. There is a common theme showing that Shared Parenting would alleviate some of the betrayal, grief, and heartache experienced by too many family members.

Shared Parenting means that BOTH parents are participating in their children’s lives. BOTH parents are working TOGETHER, as a team, ensuring that their child is receiving the tools necessary to progress in life as a happy, emotionally healthy, physically healthy individual who can make age appropriate and progressive decisions. Sometimes that means two homes.

Perhaps, a better idea is for the parents to work together, and the best case scenario involves the child will go between two homes. Allow the child to be a child and let the parents deal with the logistics!

I would like to dignify the myth in Shared Parenting that you claim does exist. The myth represents very real issues in the Family Court system. Furthermore, your arguments seem to lack scientific support. In fact, many of your ‘myths’ are contrary to current research. And, stating that your myth does exist, is insulting to co-parents across the globe.

While I will not begrudge you your thoughts, please reevaluate your position. Notably, the statements made in Shared Parenting Myth are clearly heartfelt and reveal strong emotions. Perhaps, the comments to transitioning between homes is your situation or vicarious experiences with a close friend or relative. Regardless, divorce is different for everyone. Many parents and professionals in the divorce arena would agree that divorce is destructive!

Divorce is between the parents-About the Child! For many children, parents and families Shared Parenting offer a resolution to the horrific problems created by divorce!

I welcome your response. Please feel free to contact me at MyConfession@SharedParentingConfessional.com

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Ruth A.S. Nichols, M.A., M.A., CFLE p (Certified Family Life Educator, provisional)

LIKE at www.Facebook.com/SharedParentingConfessional

Contact at: MyConfession@SharedParentingConfessional.com