How did you reach your shared parenting arrangements? We were having significant disputes over the kids and I decided the best thing to do would be to stay in the house until we had come to an agreement. I was concerned if I left it would prevent future opportunities to be with my children. I also wanted to keep things as stable for my children as possible. We tried agreeing things between ourselves which didn’t work and then we tried solicitor mediation which also didn’t work. We ended up working with collaborative lawyers which meant we didn’t have to be present in the same room at the same time
When did you reach your agreements? It took about a year to complete the process
What are/were the practicalities of your arrangements? We ended with a formal Minute of Agreement where I have the children from Saturday evening through to Monday evening and then also Thursday after school as well.
What arrangements did you make in relation to holidays and special days (such as birthdays, Christmas, religious holidays)? We split the holidays in half with the exception of the summer where I see them for three weeks and my ex-partner sees them for the rest. Other significant dates such as Christmas are alternated. I also make sure that for significant birthdays of a parent and mother’s/father’s day, the children are with the relevant parent.
"I expect things to change as they grow up, I hope they are allowed more responsibility from both parents to make decisions. I try to involve them in as much decision making as is practical."
How far is it between your house and your ex-partner's house? Not far at all, about 30 minute walk or a 5 minute drive.
How will arrangements be altered as the children grow up? I expect things to change as they grow up, I hope they are allowed more responsibility from both parents to make decisions. I try to involve them in as much decision making as is practical.
What was the reaction of family/friends/neighbours to your arrangements? Generally there seems to have been very good reactions from people but I still find it mind blowing that people are surprised when a dad is intent on staying involved in his children’s life. There are quite often comments about how I would manage it with work, suggesting that mothers don’t have that problem! There seems to be an assumption that work will come first for men, there seems to be a clear inequality in perceptions there.
3. Looking Ahead
Would you recommend shared parenting as a policy objective of the Scottish Government? Absolutely, I think we should be taking the approach where shared parenting is the accepted norm, unless there is a reason for it not to be. So rather than arguing for it in every individual case, we should be assuming it in all cases and arguing against it in individual cases.
"The best support, foundation and opportunities you can give your kids comes from having the broadest range of perspectives in their lives ... all of their relationships with their significant adults need to be maintained. "
What advice and recommendation would you give to other separating families who are considering using shared parenting? The best support, foundation and opportunities you can give your kids comes from having the broadest range of perspectives in their lives, and that means that all of their relationships with their significant adults need to be maintained. As soon as you cut them out you are cutting out opportunities and therefore acting against the best interests of the kids. Even if you don’t have a very good relationship with your ex you can still make it work, but you definitely have to be civil and respectful in in your communication. You need to remember that you’re setting an example to your children in the way you communicate with your ex.
How has shared parenting affected the relationship between you and your children? I think it has quite fundamentally changed it, in an extremely positive way. My relationship with my ex-partner was quite abusive and put me in a position where I wasn’t able to have any meaningful relationship with the children, despite living in the same house as them. Shared parenting for me has completely changed how I’m able to interact with my kids. I can now have a far more normal relationship which is both supportive and structured. When we are together we have the opportunity to be 100% present with each other.
"Especially for my youngest, the new arrangement has allowed him to develop much more confidence. He’s managed to pull away from a need to be permanently attached, which I think is really healthy."
Do you feel shared parenting allows your children to feel connected to both their parents? I don’t feel the arrangement has diminished how much support and involvement my children’s mother has been able to give to the children. I’m not sure if she would agree though, I think it is difficult for her because she doesn’t always feel in control. I don’t think it should be about competition, the children have the right to attention from both of us. She is a great mum to them but now they also get a fully involved dad.
How do you feel the environment of two homes affects the activities/hobbies your child is involved in? I think it definitely has, they are able to do a lot more things now such as ride bikes and go swimming.
Do you think shared parenting influenced your child’s social skills and friendships? I don’t think it has changed who they socialise with but the confidence that my youngest child has gained has definitely allowed him to interact with his friends better.
How has shared parenting affected your child’s independence and autonomy – feeling good about him/herself? Especially for my youngest, the new arrangement has allowed him to develop much more confidence. He’s managed to pull away from a need to be permanently attached, which I think is really healthy.
"It’s been important to be checking back in with them to see if there’s anything that’s troubling them which we could change ... it stops them simply feeling like passengers in this."
Do you feel shared parenting influenced your child’s education or school life? This was something that I was quite concerned about so I discussed it a lot with the school. I’ve managed to keep really good communication with them so the teachers have made an extra effort to check how the children were doing emotionally as well. They’ve said they haven’t seen any ill effect, nothing that gave them cause for concern.
Are there any other outcomes to shared parenting that you have seen which we haven’t discussed yet? It’s been really important that they have the chance to give their input into the arrangements. It’s been important to be checking back in with them to see if there’s anything that’s troubling them which we could change and because of that they feel really involved. Especially with my eldest, he is aware that he can have a very strong voice in decisions – it stops them simply feeling like passengers in this.