By Hugh Logue, Newswatch Editor
A new report from single parent charities Gingerbread and One Plus One argues that a legal presumption of shared care would focus on parental entitlement rather than what is in the best interests of children.
The report identifies what is needed to help parents create successful shared care arrangements after separation. It also recommends better flexible working policies, paid parental leave and affordable childcare.
Around nine per cent of UK separated families currently share care - defined in the report as children spending at least three days and three nights per week with each parent.
The Shared Parenting Orders Bill was due to be heard in Parliament last month, but ran out of time and will now not be heard until the 9 September 2011. The Bill aims to provide for the making of Shared Parenting Orders and to create a legal presumption that such Orders enhance the welfare of the child unless certain exceptions apply.
Gingerbread chief Executive Fiona Weir commented: "Separating parents need to put the best interests of their children first when they decide on contact and residence arrangements. Shared care will work well for some, but for others - particularly where there is a high level of conflict - living in a shared care arrangement can have a negative impact on children's development and well-being. A legal presumption would ride roughshod over the principle that a child's interests are paramount."
The recent interim findings of the Family Justice Review didn't recommend adopting a legal presumption of shared care.
Consultations are underway to look at increasing flexible working opportunities for parents, and on whether the law needs to be changed to facilitate greater parental engagement when families separate.