I suspect that anyone that read my last blog might think that I am against shared custody or that I believe it to be impossible. That is not the case. Rather, my point in that post was to address possibly bad faith requests for joint custody by those people who have historically neither spent a lot of time with the children nor did much of the actual parenting.
But shared parenting time is not an impossibility. Supposedly, it requires parents who have the ability to communicate and cooperate. That said, I have seen parents who cannot have a civil word with each other effectively co-parent.
Shared parenting, by New Jersey standards, is anything between 28% (104 overnights) and 50% of the overnights with the children. Curiously, these definitions actually stem from the child support guidelines. When the newest iteration of the Guidelines came into being in 1997 or 1998, they had two different worksheets – a sole parenting worksheet and a shared parenting worksheet (104 overnights and over). While non-custodial parents now got child support reductions with each overnight, the credit was greater using a shared parenting worksheet. As a result of the new guidelines, negotiations over additional overnights began, in many cases for obvious reasons.
However, in the context of shared parenting that was the subject of my prior blog and this one, I am talking about substantially more time, basically 40-50 percent of the overnights.
For parents who were both very involved with the children and who schedules allow, this is a possibility. Again, I am not sure that it is realistic in most cases where one parent was a stay at home parent and the other left the house at 6 am and got home at 7 or 8 p.m. But in cases where there is flexibility in the work schedule and/or the ability to spend a lot of time, coupled with significant prior involvement, shared parenting, in my opinion, can be considered.
I often tell fathers (typically), that they don’t have to settle for alternate weekends plus one night a week for dinner (one rather old fashioned judge called this the "off the shelf" parenting plan.) Rather, if they want more time and really can exercise it, that they should seek it. In fact, over the last decade or so, in most custody evaluations I have seen, it has been rare that simply the "off the shelf" parenting plan is ever recommended. Keeping in line with much of the new research saying that children should spend as much time as possible with each parent, most of the evaluations I have seen recommend some type of shared parenting (more than 28% but usually not 50%).
The bottom line is that when logistically possible and when sought for the right reasons, shared parenting could very well be in the children’s best interests.