Abstract

It is widely agreed that shared parenting is good for children and debate in recent years has been dominated by protestations that more ought to be done to promote it.  However, there is less consensus around what exactly shared parenting is, and why it is good for children.  Is shared parenting about time, about influence, or about something else?  What is, or should, be done to promote shared parenting, particularly for the 10% of separated parents who bring their disputes to court? Section 1(1) of the Children Act 1989 sets down the child’s welfare as the court’s first and only consideration when decisions are made about a child’s living arrangements and contact with parents and other adults.   A presumption of parental involvement has recently been added (in Section 1(2A)) to increase public confidence, but the ‘shared parenting’ label was rejected.  This presentation draws on feminist critiques, empirical research and judicial comments on shared parenting, such as Lady Hale’s observations in Holmes-Moorhouse [2009] UKHL 7.  It is asserted that a definition of shared parenting must be centred on practical caring for children, and the mutual trust and good communication required to sustain it. 

About the Speaker 

Annika Newnham is a Lecturer at the University of Reading.  Originally from Sweden, but resident in England since 1988, she has focused her research on the conditions for post-separation parenting in the two jurisdictions, identifying both differences in how parenting is understood and supported, and similarities in family law's abstract and gendered constructions of parenthood.  She has carried out research into how courts decide contact and residence disputes with Dr Maebh Harding at the University of Warwick. Funded by the Nuffield foundation, the project looked particularly at shared parenting, but also at the interaction between private and public child law.  Data were gathered both on the combinations of formal orders made and the time patterns set up as the cases left the court.   Other research interests include autopoietic theory and the common intention constructive trust.