Research shows that children in separated families do best when both parents are actively involved in their lives. The aim of shared parenting is to have children in post-separation families spend substantially equal time with both parents. Shared parenting is widely regarded as the best parenting arrangement because it focuses on the benefits the child can gain through having such time. However, in many family situations, the implementation of this may seem daunting: equal time with both parents might be an unrealistic ideal, and communication between ex-partners may be difficult. So how can shared parenting really work? In this practical and concise book, two highly experienced practitioners provide parents with straightforward advice and consider a range of sample parenting plans. they help parents construct approaches that reflect the practicalities of their split family life – and always ensure that the child’s needs are considered foremost.
‘This book is an excellent resource for people who want to understand how best to put the children first and to work out cooperative, shared parenting arrangements after separation. I recommend it very highly.’ Patrick Parkinson, Professor of Law, University of Sydney.
‘This is a must-read for any parent contemplating separation and divorce or for those already in the process. It’s never too late to reconnect with your children … You and your kids deserve this.’ Judy Radich, National President, Early Childhood Australia.
‘This book offers practical solutions focused on children’s needs, while challenging some traditional assumptions about parenting after separation.’ Anne Hollonds, CEO, Relationships Australia (NSW).
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Finally – children’s needs now come first in family separations
The introduction of new family law legislation represents an important milestone in caring for children’s needs after separation. The Family Law Amendment (Joint Parental Responsibility) Act 2006, which takes effect on 1 July, encourages a different approach to post-separation parenting.
This is the most significant reform of family law since the inception of the Family Law Act in 1975, and represents a real cultural shift in how family separation is managed. Revised sections of the Act provide for a move from custody and access to cooperative parenting, and encourage nonadversarial strategies to sort out sensible arrangements.
In Shared Parenting, a book about to be released to coincide with this important new legislation, authors Jill Burrett and Michael Green explain how parents can cooperate to ensure the least friction and disruption to their children’s lives.
Michael Green QC, a former lawyer who now specialises in family mediation, says, ‘The focus in this Act is on joint parental responsibility and shared parenting time. This will lead to groundbreaking changes in the way children are to be parented after divorce. The world is changed after separation, and so it follows that parents and parenting must also change. Separation is a human event, not a legal one. The best way to handle the fallout is to stay away from the courts and talk to one another. We have found that shared parenting is the best way to ensure happy children and satisfied parents.’
Jill Burrett, a consulting psychologist with decades of experience in this field, believes that parents need practical help with the concept of sharing the parenting load: ‘Research shows how important it is for children to continue meaningful relationships after family breakdown. So we encourage parents to develop simple, workable parenting plans. This helps them stay focused on the children’s best interests. Once a good shared parenting arrangement is in place, mums become more comfortable with sharing the children, dads learn the best ways to be with the children, and the kids are happier. Everyone can win.
‘Equal shared parenting challenges the assumption that, after separation, children have to live with one parent and visit the other. For far too long there’s been a misplaced belief that young children are better off with their mother. We believe that this situation has seriously disadvantaged children, and that fathers should be more engaged with their children than they have been.’
Michael Green agrees, adding: ‘We think that shared parenting means having real chunks of time engaged with your children for a fl exible 35–50 percent or more of their available time. We want to help parents realise what’s possible for their own families and to work together.'
About the authors
Jill Burrett is a Sydney-based consulting psychologist with over 30 years’ experience helping parents and families manage challenging family changes. At the Family Court in Sydney during the early 1980s, she directed the rapidly developing counselling and mediation services. In private practice since 1988, she now offers consulting, assessment, counselling and mediation services. Author of a number of books on family life, including Parenting After Separation, Jill is also the mother of two young adults and a stepmother.
With over 30 years’ experience as a lawyer, Michael Green QC now runs a private mediation practice specialising in family conferencing, mediation, life skills programs and dispute resolution. He conducts programs to assist men and women to better manage their lives and parenting following separation and divorce. He is the father of two children and the author of Fathers After Divorce, a book that has helped many men become successful separated parents. Michael was a member of the Federal Government’s child support reference group and an active participant in the development of the new family law legislation.