April 28th, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
This article gives us the results of a study of shared parenting in Germany (Shared Parenting, 1/24/13). It’s hard to tell just when the study was done, but it’s comprehensive and unsurprisingly shows that what’s been proven in the United States and Canada is true in Germany as well. Indeed, the findings of the very large study read like the results of countless others done by the likes of Kruk, Braver, Fabricius, Popenoe and others.
The researcher, Professor Roland Proksch of the law faculty of the University of Nuremburg received answers to a 24-page questionnaire from some 7,600 divorced or separated parents. He also interviewed 131 children as well as family judges, family lawyers and youth welfare workers. He did all that at the request of the Ministry for Justice. His findings are both compelling and not at all surprising.
This Ministry for Justice study found that:
- Joint parental custody integrates children and parents
- Secures their maintenance
- Provides mothers with more opportunities to work
- Sole parental custody excludes the disposed parent and puts the rights of the children to both parents and to access in jeopardy.
These findings were called “alarming” by the study because German courts so often order sole custody even though that is shown to be detrimental to children.
In Proksch’s own words, “The results of the study are telling.”
He was able to demonstrate that there is not, in fact, a conflict of ‘mothers against fathers’, but conflicts arising between two parents with whom their children live and those with whom their children do not live.
•“It is extraordinarily striking that there are considerable conflicts in those cases of divorce in which one parent has obtained sole custody and the other has not.”
Dr. Proksch is convinced that the “disposal” of one parent by the sole act of transferring sole custody to the other parent gives rise to considerable tensions. Reiterating the negotiating position of the ‘Equal Parenting Coalition’ of 2002 in their talks with the Lords Chancellor’s Dept Proksch concludes:
“. . . because if joint parental custody is obtained, there isn’t a “loser.”
It’s an important point. The conflict brought about by sole or primary custody is not between mothers and fathers, but between custodial and non-custodial parents. Whichever parent loses custody is seen by all parties as the loser of the battle and that exacerbates conflict throughout the child’s life as a minor.
Speaking of conflict, opponents of shared parenting often claim it makes parental relations worse due to their continually having to see and deal with each other. The only problem with that is that it’s been shown time and again to be false. In fact, as Dr. Edward Kruk has told us, shared parenting tends to lessen tensions between parents because, as Proksch says, “there isn’t a ‘loser’.” Put simply, it’s losing the battle, being shoved out of the parental role, the denigration in everyone’s eyes of the value of the non-custodial parent that causes resentment and conflict. Shared parenting avoids that.
How often have we heard that shared parenting is all well and good but it will never work where ‘high conflict’ exists within families. Proksch torpedoes that lame excuse for inaction:
•“Particularly when there is parental conflict, joint custody is clearly better: it benefits the children.”
And that result comes about not because the parents with shared care agreed to it and are therefore more likely to have good working relationships with each other than are more conflicted couples, but because the parenting is shared.
In Germany about one-third (33%), of the interviewed parents with joint custody entered their divorce proceedings with an application for sole custody, and with 14% fighting for it until the court rejected their application.
With hindsight, writes Proksch, it is possible “to ascertain positive effects even for these parents who thus had to accept joint parental custody against their will”.
•“It is stated that joint parental custody requires father and mother to be responsible even after their divorce and that this benefits their children.
Back in the 90s, Professor Sanford Braver at Arizona State University showed that the single factor that most enhanced the probability that child support would be paid was the custodial parent’s not interfering with access. The German study shows something similar: shared custody makes payment of support far more likely than does sole custody.
In what can only be described by fathers groups as a vindication of all they have been saying when lobbying government the German experience is that CSA payments exceed levels of 93% where fathers have joint/shared custody.
Dr. Proksch describes his results for maintenance payments as “astonishingly clear.” Unaware perhaps that 20 years ago the same or similar high levels were revealed in US data (David Popenoe, 1996),  and were hinted at in the Uni of York (UK) study by Bradshaw, Stimson, et al, 1997.
Of those parent who were ‘obliged’ to pay maintenance (fathers in the main), Dr. Proksch could categorically state that “joint custody leads to reliable maintenance payments.”
Against a backdrop of every judge and lawyer knowing endless stories about unpaid child maintenance [CSA], Dr. Proksch was able to uses facts to demonstrate that ‘joint parental custody’ leads to almost 100% payment of maintenance.
- 93.5% of fathers with joint custody who are obliged to pay maintenance state that they paid child maintenance
- This is confirmed by 87% of mothers stating they received the CSA payments
Meanwhile, sole custody tends to accomplish the exact opposite of what’s best for kids. The parent with custody tends to shove the non-custodial parent out of the child’s life and the non-custodial parent responds by feeling less and less necessary to the child. The result is that the child sees less and less of his/her non-custodial parent (usually the father).
“Access” entitlement (visitation) is often and effectively torpedoed by the parent with sole custody and is often exacerbated by the arrival of a new partner. When it is the mother who has a new partner she resents being reminded of her former spouse caused by ‘access’ visits. On the other hand, when it is the father who has ‘a new partner’ jealousy or resentment is rekindled because of the new women in his life
The longer this dispossession and loss of enfranchisement lasts the lower are the chances of implementing access rights. The parent blocking constructive access can in effect “sit back and let time do its work”.
•What is really shocking is that parents with sole custody admit that “they themselves no longer want contact with the other parent”. The needs of the child, whom both parents clearly love”, are thus ignored.
As in the United States, Canada and England, vast numbers of non-custodial parents – fathers and mothers – end up with little or no contact with their children.
It took 30 years for the UK government to accept in a Green Paper the figure of 40% of fathers losing contact with their children 3 year after divorce or separation. In Germany the numbers are similar. Dr. Proksch states German figures in these terms:
•“More than 40% of the mothers and fathers who do not have parental custody but have entitlement to visit have only seldom contact or no longer any contact at all with their children” (see the Uni of York (UK) study by Bradshaw, Stimson, et al, 1997.
Sole custody which squeezes out the other parent who has only contact rights from the life of the child is therefore deemed a model that runs counter to promoting children’s rights and interests.
There’s not much that’s new in this German study, except that it adds Germany to the ever-growing list of countries in which the truth is known about the benefits of shared parenting and the detriments of sole or primary custody. Germany, like so many others, knows what it needs to do to promote the well-being of children whose parents divorce. But sadly for all, it neither alters its laws nor trains its judges so that children maintain full relationships with both parents after divorce or separation.
It’s an outrage and a scandal, but there it is.
The National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization
The National Parents Organization is a non-profit organization that is educating the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents and extended families. If you would like to get involved in our organization, you can do so several ways. First, we would love to have you as an official member of the National Parents Organization team. Second, the National Parents Organization is an organization that believes in the importance of using social media as a means to spread the word about shared parenting and other topics, and you can visit us on our Facebook Page to learn more about our efforts. Last, we hope you will share this article with other families using the many social networking sites so that we can bring about greater awareness of shared parenting. Thank you for your support.