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The Shared Parenting Myth - a Dissenting position by a US Lawyer

There continues to be a growing trend toward shared parenting time arrangements throughout the United States and New Jersey is no different.

On February 16, 2016, a New Jersey Family Law attorney, Santo Artusa, presented The Shared Parenting Myth in LexusNexus.

This is his article and rebuttal argument for Shared Parenting from Ruth A.S. Nichols, M.A., M.A., CFLE p (Certified Family Life Educator, provisional).
Santo V. Artusa, Jr., Esq Posted on: LEXIS NEXIS USA Practice Insights Forum


 

The shared parenting myth


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

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 obliterates the idea for 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 in order 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 insure 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 a father/strong male figure in their life is LESS likely to engage in alcohol and drug use, sex and delinquent behaviors. The child is LESS likely to have physical and emotional health issues, experience social and academic problems.

RECENT RESEARCH! 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 why Family Court reform is needed. I created a survey for parents to evaluate their experience in the Family Court system www.RateMYFamilyCourt.com (US Courts)

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 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 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, to insure that their child is receiving the tools necessary to progress in life as a happy, emotionally healthy, physically healthy individual who is able to 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 actually 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 re-evaluate 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 offers a resolution to the horrific problems created by divorce! I welcome your response in the forum thread.
  Please feel free to contact me at:
Ruth A.S. Nichols, M.A., M.A., CFLE p (Certified Family Life Educator, provisional) LIKE at: Facebook

Contact Ruth by email

URL Links provided
Shared Parenting Confessional.  A place for co-parents to confess feelings of betrayal, fear, heartache or humiliation experienced in divorce or co-parenting situation.

Rate My Family Court A Survey Monkey submission of Co-Parents’ Experience with the Family Court system.

www.RateMYFamilyCourt.com Rate My Family Court, A Co-Parents’ Experience with the Family Court system.
The Shared Parenting Myth, written by Santo Artusa, posted on 2/16/16, Lexisnexis.com.

Lexis Nexis US site The original article

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

References Provided
'Research is consistent':
Amato, P. (2010). Research on Divorce: Continuing Trends and New Developments. Journal of Marriage and Family 72(3): 650 to 666. [doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737. 2010.00723.x]

Fabricius, W. V. & Luecken, L.J. (2007).  Post divorce living arrangements, parent conflict, and long-term physical health correlates for children of divorce.  Journal of Family Psychology,   21 195-205.

Kleinsorge C, Covitz LM. Impact of divorce on children: developmental considerations. Pediatric Rev. 2012;33(4):147-155.

Sbarra, D.A. & Emery, R.E. (2008).  Deeper Into Divorce: Using actor–partner analyses to explore systemic differences in co-parenting conflict following custody dispute resolution
Journal of Family Psychology, 22, 144–152.

Wallerstein, J. and Lewis, J. (2007).  Sibling Outcomes and disparate parenting and step parenting after divorce: From a 10-Year Longitudinal Study. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 24, 445–458.

Wallerstein, Judith S.; Lewis, Julia M. The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: Report of a 25-Year Study. Psychoanalytic Psychology, Vol 21(3), 2004, 353-370.

'Recent research':
Bergstrom, M., Fransson, E., Modin, B., Berlin, M., Gustafsson, P., Anders, H.. (2015) Fifty moves a year: is there an association between joint physical custody and psychosomatic problems in children? J Epidemiol Community Health [2015;69:769-774 doi:10.1136/jech-2014-205058]

Collins, Lois, M. (2016) What “shared parenting’ is and how it can affect kids after divorce". Deseret News. Third tier source. Reported in National Parents Organization.

Franklin, Robert. (2015). Children need both parents even after divorce. National Review Magazine, on-line

Image: New Jersey Family Law attorney, Santo Artusa Jr.
Santo V. Artusa Jr.
I agree with Mr Artusa's argument. But I have to admit thaf I only have one experience with shared parenting from someone I know very closely. It's been a disaster - the father does not abide by any agreements and continually undermines all attempts to provide consistency in the 2 children's lives - in schooling, discipline, nutrition, etc, in all areas. There is no such thing as one size fits all in terms of custody. In this case the kids would have been better off with the mother with minimal time with the father.
Okay, cat amongst the pigeons time again.

How do you know that the children would be better off with the mother? Have you actually witnessed the father not abiding by the agreements. Have you actually witnessed the father attending to the children with regard to schooling, discipline, nutrition etc? Are you always present in the father's house when he has care of the children? Or are you taking the word of the mother? Are you taking the word of the children? If you are not witnessing any of this, and are being told of it by either the mother or the children,  then essentially what you are saying is hearsay.

There are plenty of parents out there who, for whatever reason, have majority care of the children of separation. It does not mean that the children are actual spending the majority of their time with the more capable parent. And yet the parent who they are spending majority time with would assure all and sundry that they are the 'best' parent.
Jamara said
 I agree …….  I….  I….. I….. Do you or do you not see the hypocrisy with There is no such thing as one size fits all ……. ?

What if I were to draw conclusions in the same way as yourself?

Perhaps that my ex wife left 20 or so knife marks in a door which I was behind, should lead me to conclude that all women are vicious abusers?
What if I were to draw the conclusion that all wives are abusers of others including their own children and are therefore unfit as parents, due to my observation that my ex-wife subjected our child to witness her abuse of others.

I have little doubt that there would be common disagreement, to say the least, with my conclusions. I dare say that you Jarama would likely disagree with my conclusions. If not then you would have to disagree with your own argument on the same foundation as your arguments against a train of thought that I posed based upon consideration of your train of thought, amongst which would probably be along the lines of "There is no such things as one size fits all".

Simply put I believe you have no valid argument, nor, in the same vein has Artusa.

However, the evidence supporting the concept of children overall benefiting from involvement of both parents is evident. For instance the UN Convention of the rights of children, clearly enshrines the right of children to know and be cared for by their parents. Not a parent, not only the mother or father, both parents. Considering CEDAW (UN Convention of the Elimination of all Discrimination Against Women) and CEDAM (ooops that one doesn't exist). Then clearly, as CROC does not discriminate for or against either gender as it is not gender specific, either gender is as good or bad as the other. Of course one would assume that the UN doesn't just jump in and write conventions of the cuff. One would assume that such a body actually looks into matters. Surely if there were compelling reasons that in such a commonplace occurrence as separation, then the convention would include a clear disclaimer.

That of course is not the only compelling support for shared parenting, unlike Artusa's unprofessional rant which has no reference to researched facts and or findings, Nichols' response does include references to support the argument. It is therefore professional rather than an opinionated rant.

I think a major points is not touched, that is that as a "Family Law attorney" Artusa has a clear motivation, income, for promoting wholesale abuse of children by promoting a regime that commonly ensures an entrenched legal battle. Perhaps every child who endures the pain and suffering of missing a parent due to any cause that can be related/linked to Artus'a article should have a legal claim of compensation against Artusa based upon the clear negligence of publishing a paper or papers that have no indication of support by the way of references to researched facts and or findings.
Jarama said
 It's been a disaster - the father does not abide by any agreements and continually undermines all attempts to provide consistency in the 2 children's lives - in schooling, discipline, nutrition, etc, in all areas.
Your reasons are not the reasons for shared parenting failure, they are just obstacles that have been put into place for nothing…..In order for shared parenting to work you have to let go of the somewhat ridiculous notion that things have to be the same in both houses. THIS mindset is the problem.

Schooling is taken care of.. at school! What the child eats and does in the other house is no ones business except the child and the parent they are with. Most kids eat and live and learn and grow up to be balanced adults.. so why not just go with the flow?

By "undermining" im guessing you mean "does not do" or "does not agree with" Its a pointless path in life that you will only ever be frustrated with. because you will never "win". Why try to change what you cannot?

.Of course, not worrying does not negate sensible dialogue on matters such as health and education but.. drop the whole  "this is how it should be over there" thing and life will be a lot happier.

Last edit: by The Wolf


Nothing i say should be taken as legal advice. I am not a Lawyer. If i help you it is of your own free choice to listen to what i say or not. I do not create documents for you. I do not represent you…. Purple Monkey Dishwasher
Interesting, The Wolf.

I ask you this then. In my shared care situation I fully and wholeheartedly accept that what happens in the other house is up to them. I run my home as I see fit and our daughter understands that my rules apply in this house, and her Dad's in his.

He asks her about me and my activities, keeps a diary of my actions, the food we eat, where we go. She has seen this and told me about it. She is 14, so it is of concern to her that he tracks me and our actions in this way, when she knows that I do not do the same. He refused to pay any child support, yet used the information about my income provided by Child Support to tell our daughter what I "should" be doing with my money - buying a house, sending her to private school etc. I tried to shut this down by cancelling the Child Support case. He constantly shares his opinions about my rules and my house with our daughter, who then brings that home and discusses it with me. My response is that this is our house, our rules, his house, his rules.

So is this a shared care success? Or failure?
Malady said
So is this a shared care success? Or failure?
If her schooling is ok, if there are no real issues with mental health and she spends time in both houses it IS a success. Who cares what someone is writing somewhere in a little book… Of course its a success with s stupid other parent but, if you actually share care and nothing has changed then what is not a success about it?

On a side note What about your daughter? at 14 she should well be able to not provide that information to him and then its over yes? Show me one 14 year old that wont tell their parents to shut up!




Nothing i say should be taken as legal advice. I am not a Lawyer. If i help you it is of your own free choice to listen to what i say or not. I do not create documents for you. I do not represent you…. Purple Monkey Dishwasher
Wolf, I do care that he's tracking my every move. I find it disturbing in a way that I can't adequately articulate. We've been separated for 11 years. We live over an hour and a half apart and have no friends in common. Yet he knows what I have for dinner every night, what meetings I attend, what projects I'm working on at work. He tracks my movements, my meals and my money. That is disturbing.

My daughter tells him things because he emotionally blackmails her if she doesn't give over information. I have explained to her on multiple occasions that I would prefer her not to. She gets in trouble if she doesn't tell him what he wants to know. I think she's ok, but I also think that there will come a time very, very soon where she will refuse to see him due to his behaviour. I have absolutely no doubt that when that happens, he will blame me for it. He may even attempt to characterise me as one of "those" women - the ones who alienate their children from their fathers.

I do not think this is a shining example of a shared care situation, however, if the bar is as low as it appears to be - is the child still seeing both parents, is managing schooling and has no "real" mental health issues - then I guess it is, by those criteria, a success. I wonder what my daughter will think about it all, when she's grown. I doubt she will describe it as a success.
Malady said

He asks her about me and my activities, keeps a diary of my actions, the food we eat, where we go. She has seen this and told me about it. She is 14, so it is of concern to her that he tracks me and our actions in this way, when she knows that I do not do the same. He refused to pay any child support, yet used the information about my income provided by Child Support to tell our daughter what I "should" be doing with my money - buying a house, sending her to private school etc. I tried to shut this down by cancelling the Child Support case. He constantly shares his opinions about my rules and my house with our daughter, who then brings that home and discusses it with me. My response is that this is our house, our rules, his house, his rules.

So is this a shared care success? Or failure?
I would suggest there is a mental health issue with this parent. Quite bizarre behavior. Hardly helpful toward any sort of shared parenting regime.

I am aware of the case Jarama refers to and in particular issues like the children are allowed to stay up late watching x-rated movies, not doing homework/assignments which are left for the other parent to sort out, late for school on various days or not attending school at all, poor food, takeaways way too often, children becoming obese, week about not working etc. Certainly not helping operate a shared parenting regime. 

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
 Was my post helpful? If so, please let others know about the FamilyLawWebGuide whenever you see the opportunity
 
Malady said
Wolf, I do care that he's tracking my every move. I find it disturbing in a way that I can't adequately articulate. We've been separated for 11 years. We live over an hour and a half apart and have no friends in common. Yet he knows what I have for dinner every night, what meetings I attend, what projects I'm working on at work. He tracks my movements, my meals and my money. That is disturbing.

But is this a product of shared time? Id say its a product of a weak person (him) with no life and could be even worse if he was a weekend only dad
Malady said
My daughter tells him things because he emotionally blackmails her if she doesn't give over information. I have explained to her on multiple occasions that I would prefer her not to. She gets in trouble if she doesn't tell him what he wants to know. I think she's ok, but I also think that there will come a time very, very soon where she will refuse to see him due to his behaviour. I have absolutely no doubt that when that happens, he will blame me for it. He may even attempt to characterise me as one of "those" women - the ones who alienate their children from their fathers.
Who cares how he portraits you, you have no mutual friends and again this behaviour is a product of the individual and not shared parenting


Nothing i say should be taken as legal advice. I am not a Lawyer. If i help you it is of your own free choice to listen to what i say or not. I do not create documents for you. I do not represent you…. Purple Monkey Dishwasher
Apologies - I should have clarified that our care is shared with him having EOW and a portion of school holidays. I did initially (11 years ago) offer to move so that we could do a 50/50 split of care, but he refused that offer, took me to court, and lost. I still consider our situation to be one of shared care though, despite the time spent not being equal.
Malady said
Apologies - I should have clarified that our care is shared with him having EOW and a portion of school holidays. I did initially (11 years ago) offer to move so that we could do a 50/50 split of care, but he refused that offer, took me to court, and lost. I still consider our situation to be one of shared care though, despite the time spent not being equal.

You really should have clarified… Honestly, it does not matter what you "consider " this is NOT a shared care situation and would never be seen as one in the eyes of anyone connected with the court. It is a subjective opinion that you have come to yourself. (not having a go)

Nothing i say should be taken as legal advice. I am not a Lawyer. If i help you it is of your own free choice to listen to what i say or not. I do not create documents for you. I do not represent you…. Purple Monkey Dishwasher
What is the Court definition of Shared Care Wolf? Just so I know for next time. I had assumed that it was different to "equal shared care" which is the term I had heard used to describe an equal split of time, so now I'm left confused and unsure of what the correct term is for my ex, who has just over 110 nights per year.
Malady said
What is the Court definition of Shared Care Wolf? Just so I know for next time. I had assumed that it was different to "equal shared care" which is the term I had heard used to describe an equal split of time, so now I'm left confused and unsure of what the correct term is for my ex, who has just over 110 nights per year.
You have majority care and ex has time spent, but i think you knew that already. Who cares what the court defines. I am talking about what normal everyday people would think when they see the words "Me and my ex have shared care" on a public forum and in this thread

Even this article mentioned Weekend and Holiday times as not being shared care.  Thanks

DrJohn said
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.

Last edit: by The Wolf


Nothing i say should be taken as legal advice. I am not a Lawyer. If i help you it is of your own free choice to listen to what i say or not. I do not create documents for you. I do not represent you…. Purple Monkey Dishwasher
Jarama, I see you’re new.  Thank you for your contribution to the forum.  While I do agree that shared care will not always be the most appropriate care arrangement for some children, I do not think it is advisable to formulate any firm views on the success or failure of shared care based on only one (or a couple) of experiences/observations.  For every story of a shared care situation not working (like your friends), there are just as many stories, if not more, of it working (including for some of the members on this forum).

In terms of the article.  Let Mr Artusa’s sentiments be a lesson particularly to those of you new to Family Law.  Lawyers can harbor their own biases and one-sided views.  Choose your legal reps wisely!!

To the off topic discussion:
Wolf, while I agree that Malady and those people with an interest in and/or an affiliation with Family Law/the Courts (including as a litigant) should be familiar with the term Shared Care, you only need to look at how many litigants still confuse the definitions of ‘Equal Shared Parental Responsibility’ with ‘Equal Time’ OR ‘Shared Care’ with ‘Equal Time’ to see how easily terminology can be confused.

Malady, as I generally view you as a person who makes some valuable contributions to these forums, I will give you the benefit of the doubt and answer your question.

You are correct that The Act talks in terms of ‘time’ i.e. Section 65DAA refers to “equal time” and “substantial and significant time”.  It does not use the term “shared care” but then again it does not use the term “EOW” either.

While Equal Time is usually considered mostly as the name suggests (48%-52% per year) and would also be referred to as Shared Care, given Shared Care generally refers to any time arrangement where both parents have at least 35% care per year, then Share Care would also refer to some time arrangements falling under Substantial and Significant time.

EOW and half holidays, providing there are also opportunities for the both parents to be involved in events and activities of significance to the children (including those falling on weekdays), I would argue, in most cases fall under Substantial and Significant time due to the broader definition of weekday time the Courts have taken.  However, EOW and half holidays would not usually be seen as Shared Care.

In terms of the nonsense going on between the father and your daughter, I would agree with the SecSPCA that this is certainly bizarre behaviour.   However, as you have said the child does not seem to be suffering due to this behaviour, I would just try to ignore it.  I also agree with Wolf that at 14 years of age (unless she is a little immature for age or for some other reason finds this difficult) that she should be able to assert herself and put a stop to it on her own if she so chooses.
 

Any opinions expressed herein are strictly for informational purposes and are never to be taken as legal advice.
I didn't mean to offend you Wolf, either by the question or by my original error. It was a genuine mistake and I wanted to learn from it by getting the wording right from now on.

Thank you SWAMBO for the detailed response - that makes it clearer. Like I said earlier - I have always referred to my situation as shared care - I see now that it should have been Substantial and Significant Time. I'll be careful to use the correct term if I am back here in the future.
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