Equal Parenting Time:
Sustaining Relationships and Providing Stability
The best arrangement for a child or children is to spend equal time between parents. During a marriage spending equal time between parents is obviously beneficial, so after a divorce it makes just as much sense for a child to continue equally spending time with both mother and father. Divorce should not sever a bond between the non-custodial parent and child and the every-other-weekend arrangement does just that. However, equal parenting time should not be coerced if one parent is unable or unwilling to spend time with his or her child(ren), because unfortunately some parents walk away from divorce and do not want to look back. But as long as there is a willingness and commitment by both parents, equal parenting is the best, most stable situation for children of divorce.
Though many may argue that being shuffled between two households is not stable for children, the stability lies in the continuation of parental involvement from marriage to divorce and beyond. Though, the transition may be initially difficult, especially if time or distance is a factor, this transition is worth it when it allows for the non-custodial parent to remain the same important and present figure in a child’s life. The every-other-weekend arrangement does not allow for parents to feel like parents and the dissolution of the bond can occur. According to Harrington (2009) “in these cases, the fathers and mothers with limited schedules actually feel more like aunts and uncles than meaningfully involved parents. The children are the biggest losers”. The adversarial family courts do, however, pit parents against one another when it comes to custody disputes and laws are needed nationwide to prevent the “winner” and “loser” mentality in the courts, as Harrington so deftly states, it is the children who are the losers if both parents cannot be equally involved.
Washington state is setting up a trend through law that needs to be adopted by every state, here “46 percent of children of divorce, statewide, are ordered to spend a minimum of 35 percent parenting time with their biological fathers” (Harrington, 2009). This is not equal time, but it is a step in the right direction. Moreover, Harrington relays that “the report statistic that rings the loudest and truest is that 93 percent of the final decisions are by agreement of the parents”. This means that only 7 percent of these decisions weighed in by the courts are contested in an adversarial manner. If these “good parents”, as Harrington calls them are agreeing to more equal parenting time, then it does send a message that this is what is best for the nation’s children. It is possible that the other 54 percent of children not ordered to spend this allotted time with biological fathers are either already in the custody of their fathers or have fathers, who are not part of what is considered “good parents”. As stated before, this arrangement should never be coerced. Good parents should be able to agree to more equal time with their children, simply because it is the right thing to do for their children.
In closing, parents should never be alienated from their children due to a divorce. The most unstable situation for a child in a lack of continuity with both parents after a marriage dissolves. Though adjusting to living in two households may be difficult, it is best as agreed on by parents in the innovative state of Washington. Laws like the one enacted here should be put into action in every state and a cessation of adversarial custody disputes should be implemented so that children do not become “losers” due to the current system. Good parents know what is best for their children and will most likely agree that equal parenting time is the way to make their children winners, even after a divorce.
Harrington, Bill. (February 25, 2009). “Giving parents equal parenting time by law” in The Seattle Times. Accessible online http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2008786615_opinb26harrington.html. Last accessed 17 May, 2009.