Kruk maintains equal shared parenting is the key to preventing parental alienation and “preserving the integrity of the child”s relationship with both parents.’ He says the time has come to “get rid entirely of this dominant, full custody regime that we have where one parent is removed from the child”s life via a sole custody order.’
That’s Edward Kruk, sociologist and “Canada’s foremost expert on custody issues” quoted in this article (The Epoch Times, 4/1/09). One of his most important points is that equally shared parenting can go a long way toward eliminating the animosity of custody battles. A system in which custody of children is “awarded” to the parent deemed by the court to have been the dominant caregiver, children easily become prizes given to the winner of the dispute. Kruk’s simple point is that that is not a healthy environment for anyone, particularly children.
And beyond that, the fact that one parent tends to do more childcare than the other is, by itself, no reason whatsoever for the child to lose contact with the other parent. If, as is usually the case, the father spends more time at work and less time in childcare than the mother, that doesn’t mean the child doesn’t have a significant relationship with the father that needs to be maintained. On the contrary, mountains of sociology point to the fact that children need greater contact with fathers post-divorce. As things stand now, paternal contact with children drops sharply after divorce. That’s bad for children.
It is reasonable to assume that the same holds true for mothers when fathers are the primary caregiver. There’s less social science on that because mothers make up 84% of custodial parents. But there’s no good reason I’m aware of to displace mothers from children’s lives post-divorce the way fathers so frequently are now.
Speaking of animosity in divorce cases, the same article discusses a book about divorce written by Canadian Justice Harvey Brownstone. It details some of the hateful, childish things parents do during divorce. Brownstone has had parents tell him that they would rather see their children dead than with the other parent. Unsurprisingly, sentiments like those do deep harm to children.
The process that Brownstone describes exacerbates the conflicts between parents at the expense of children’s wellbeing. It is that process that Kruk wants to change by removing the “winner-take-all” character from divorce. Once children cease being trophies awarded to the “good” parent and denied to the “bad” one, maybe parents will pay more attention to their children’s welfare and less to one-upping the other parent.
I’ve argued before that reducing the adversarial nature of divorce is necessary to improving children’s outcomes following marriage dissolution. Establishing in law the presumption that, absent egregious neglect or harm, parents share equally the time and expense of childcare will go a long way toward that goal.