Edward Kruk, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of British Columbia, has written an article in Psychology Today about co-parenting and high conflict. In a brief synopsis, he says there is a general consensus between legal and mental health professionals alike, that when divorcing parents are unable to come to an agreement on shared parenting arrangements for their children, and they remain caught up in a contentious relationship, their children suffer. The belief is that when children remain in the middle of their parents’ conflict, and the exposure is ongoing, the effect on their children can be extremely damaging. This is why there is a legal presumption against shared parenting in high conflict cases in many jurisdictions. As a result, parents will seek sole custody by using high-conflict as a reason for doing so. And in some cases, parents may overstate the extent of high conflict in order to ensure they get sole custody over shared parenting.
There is no question that ongoing, unresolved conflict after divorce can be damaging to children. Rather, the debate among health professionals and the legal community lies on the type of parenting arrangement to be put into place.
For many years, research supported the view that shared parenting in high conflict relationships was harmful to children. However, previous research indicates that the damage was more likely to occur when the parents exchanged children at pick-up times. To state it in another way, children are exposed to their parents’ fighting at times of exchange. When the frequency of the exchanges is lessened and the children are exposed to less conflict, the negative effects go away.
More resent research shows that not only is shared parenting not harmful in high conflict situations, but that shared parenting can get rid of the harmful effects of high conflict.
Divorce research has come to a consensus on the matter of high conflict and parenting after divorce. In 2002 research concluded that there are benefits to shared parenting that exist regardless of parental conflict. Problems with parental conflict are likely to arise when fathers lose contact with their children in high parental conflict situations. It was later concluded in 2007, from children’s own perspective, that shared parenting is beneficial to children regardless if they are in a high or low conflict situation. In conclusion, the amount of parenting time should not be limited in cases of high conflict. And furthermore, high conflict should not be used to prevent children from seeing either of their parents.
Other research goes on to say that sole custody is likely to create conflict because it promotes a more adversarial “winner-take-all” sole custody system and hostility runs high when parents become fearful of losing their children. Half of first-time violence occurs after separation. In addition, studies indicate that when fathers have limited contact with their children, they become more hostile toward their ex-wives. In sum, sole custody arrangements lead to more conflict over time whereas shared parenting arrangements lead to less conflict over time. Conflict goes down when neither parent is threatened about losing child custody.
At Stange Law Firm, PC, we represent both fathers and mothers in child custody cases. In Missouri and Illinois law, child custody is based on serving the best interest of the child. And courts today are more in favor of awarding joint custody. Stange Law Firm, PC also represents Fathers’ Rights on family law matters such as these.
Stange Law Firm, PC has experienced attorneys who focus exclusively on family law representing clients in divorce, separation, child custody, child support and other interrelated family matters. Contact us today to set up your free, one-hour initial consultation: 314-963-4700.
Source: Co-Parenting After Divorce, by Edward Kruk, Ph.D., Psychology Today