Shared Parenting

What is Shared Parenting?

People often assume shared parenting is when each parent has a week on/week off rotation with the children.  However, this is not necessarily the case.  In Alberta, shared parenting is when each parent has the children between 40% and 60% of the time.  One-week rotations with the children does qualify as shared parenting, however there are many other parenting schedules that can also be created to have a shared parenting arrangement.  In short, the schedule that makes the most sense for you and your family depends on your family.  For instance, every family has different schedules, commitments and needs. 

When parents live further apart from their former spouses but are able to get the children to school, sometimes the week on/week off schedule makes the most sense.  Some parents have explored semester on/semester off or even year on/year off arrangements.  When children are very young, sometimes parents prefer to do shorter rotations. For example, exchanging the children each day so the children are not away from either parent for long periods of time.  Some parents are out of town because of their work schedule, in which case a parenting arrangement around that schedule would make the most sense.

Many parents have an innate sense that exactly equal time with each parent is the default outcome and anything besides equal time is unfair and the exception.  However, the law in Alberta is not that shared parenting is the automatic default.  Shared parenting is often the ideal outcome, but not always or not immediately.  This can sometimes be difficult for parents to understand, why would the Judge choose them over me?  The Judge is tasked with taking in all of the facts about the children, their needs, their schedules, the parents, and anything else relevant, to determine what is in the children’s best interests.  As every family is different, there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to what is in the children’s best interests.

Further, it is a common misconception that shared parenting means that a parent does not have to pay child support.  This is not always the case however, in most situations, the higher earning parent will pay child support to the lower earning parent, despite them each having equal or nearly equal time with the children.  The interplay between child support and parenting can be a complicated issue in itself.

Written by Michael Ross

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