Shared care after separation in the UK: limited data, limited practice?

Haux, Tina, McKay, Steve and Cain, Ruth (2017) Shared care after separation in the UK: limited data, limited practice? Family Court Review, 55 (4). pp. 572-585. ISSN 1531-2445

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Shared care after separation in the UK: limited data, limited practice?
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Despite legislative reform in the last five years aimed at giving non-resident parents (NRPs) official rights to ‘involvement’ in the lives of their children, the UK has not enacted a presumption of ‘50/50’ shared care. The emphasis on individual arrangements follows an overall policy trend toward privatization of family disputes. The little data that exists suggests that the UK lags behind other countries in numbers of separated or divorced couples engaging in shared care, though the actual prevalence and practice of shared care in the UK is difficult to assess for several reasons: definitions of shared care range from 50/50 living arrangements to less definitive timeshares; data on shared parenting practices are relatively rare and fragmented; and it is too early to assess the impact of the new legislative presumption of ‘parental involvement’ on judicial decisions. This article outlines the recent legislative changes, examines the available information on post-separation contact and shared care, highlights the (large) gaps in the data and suggests reasons for these gaps and ways to address them, and concludes with observations on the importance of robust data.

Key points:
• UK legislators recently considered the option of a presumption of 50/50 residence after separation, but finally decided on an imprecise presumption that both parents be involved in the care of the child.
• The ‘presumption of parental involvement’ fails to define shared care in terms of time divisions or residence arrangements
• UK policy and legislation on post-separation child arrangements and child maintenance emphasize private arrangements without state intervention; only 10% of couples go to court for child arrangements and these are considered ‘high-conflict’.
• Data on shared care practices in the UK are sparse and difficult to analyze – reflecting a lack of definitional clarity in policy, and poor measurement in existing studies.
• Estimates of the incidence of shared care range from 3–17%, although the accounts of parents with care (PWC) suggest that 50/50 arrangements could be as low as 1%.
• There appears to have been no substantial increase in shared care over the last decade, but the impact of recent legislative changes has yet to be assessed and better data is needed.
• The UK has some way to go in strengthening the evidence base around patterns of post-separation parenting.

Additional Information:24 month embargo after publication in October 2017, so October 2019.
Keywords:shared care, fathers' rights, child arrangement orders, household survey data, bmjdoi
Subjects:M Law > M110 UK Legal Systems
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
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ID Code:28047
Deposited On:28 Jul 2017 10:34

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