Shared Parenting, Social Justice and Children's Rights

Conclusions of the Fourth International Conference on Shared Parenting.

Posted Apr 12, 2019

The Fourth International Conference on Shared Parenting, organized by the International Council on Shared Parenting under the patronage of the Council of Europe, has recently concluded. Following the Council's third conference on the “best interests of the child” in divorce, which concluded that children’s best interests are commensurate with a legal presumption of co-parenting, the theme of the fourth conference was, “Shared Parenting, Social Justice and Children’s Rights.” This was the fourth international gathering of family scientists, practitioners and NGO representatives specializing in the field of shared parenting, with forty countries represented.

The conference examined the degree to which shared parenting is in keeping with the principles and articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Thus, the focus of the conference was to examine how shared parenting, viewed as in the best interests of children of separated parents, is a crucial issue for practitioners and policymakers around the globe, in regard to the realignment of national law and international practices in keeping with the articles of the Convention.

The conference addressed four key questions:

  1. What are the existing legal systems and challenges regarding the legal presumption of shared parenting as a children’s right, in different countries?
  2. What are the current trends and research outcomes regarding social attitudes and knowledge about shared parenting?
  3. To what extent can shared parenting, gender equality, and work-life balance be combined to improve the health and well-being of children whose parents are separated?
  4. How can national laws and international regulations be adapted in consideration of changing social norms and knowledge about shared parenting?

As with the Council’s first four conferences, a consensus was reached on a number of important issues, intended to serve as a guide for family lawmakers, policymakers, and practitioners around the globe with respect to the implementation of co-parenting in law, policy, and practice.

The conference arrived at the following areas of consensus, in accordance with the articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

First, we call upon the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, governments and professional associations to:

  • identify shared parenting as a fundamental right of the child
  • focus on the specific need of children of separated and divorced parents to know and be raised by both of their parents, and to endorse shared parenting as best ensuring that this need is protected
  • respect the views of children of separated and divorced parents in regard to their stated preferences for post-separation living arrangement
  • clearly define and operationalize the concept of the “best interests of the child” in the context of parental separation, toward an evidence-based, child-focused understanding of “best interests”
  • identify shared parenting as in the best interests of the child, as it maintains children’s relationship with both parents and reduces conflict between parents
  • ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of children of separated and divorced parents, and to take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect these children from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including parental alienation as a form of emotional child abuse and family violence

Second, we call upon governments and employers to:

  • institute family policies that support and protect both parents’ involvement in work and family life, including equal support for mothers and fathers in regard to parental leave and leave for family reasons

Finally, we call upon the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Council of Europe, and international institutions to:

  • take measures to ensure that member states do not discriminate against children of separated and divorced parents on the basis of parental status, specifically in regard to removing a parent from the daily life of a child;
  • encourage states that are signatories to the Convention to adopt shared parenting as the foundation of family law.

Thus the delegates to the Fourth International Conference on Shared Parenting concluded that the time has come for both family law legislators and family practitioners to take action to establish co-parenting as the foundation of family law, as a fundamental social justice issue and right of the child.

The fifth conference of the International Council on Shared Parenting is scheduled for May 29-June 1, 2020, at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada. The theme of the 2020 conference will be, “The Intersection of Shared Parenting and Family Violence,” and will feature the work of leading scholars and practitioners in two fields, co-parenting after divorce, and family violence. For information about the conference please see: vancouver2020.org