In the context of family law, what does shared care mean? Does it mean equal care? Our solicitor, Chris Barber, explains the meaning of this concept.
Our video contains captions, but if you prefer, you can read the transcript below:
When a court is considering making an order detailing whom a child lives with and/or spends time with, they will be making what is called a child arrangement order. The notion of shared care comes out of a child arrangement order.
So, if an order states that a child lives with both parents, then this is a shared care order. However, and this is sometimes where the confusion comes, shared care does not necessarily mean a child’s time will be spent equally between their parents. So a child arrangement order could say that the child lives with both parents (shared care), but then goes on to set out a schedule which, when you look at it, allows more time with one parent than the other.
So why therefore, when the basic definition of shared care is equal care, does the court make the orders where shared care is unequal? Well, it comes down to the law and the facts of the case. When deciding whether to make child arrangement order, the court must have the welfare of the child as its paramount consideration.
In doing so, it should have regard to the statutory checklist, which includes considerations such as the age of the child, wishes and feelings of the child, and their physical, emotional and educational needs. So when the court takes the legal provision into account and looks at the facts of the case before it, then if a child’s welfare would be best served by an order for shared living arrangements, even on an unequal basis, and that is the order that it can make.
Shared care shows both parents have equal status and can be done to reduce conflict between the parents. In one case, it was hoped that a shared care order might help prevent the mother from encouraging the child in negative attitudes towards her father. Harmonious relationship between the parents is not a prerequisite for making a shared care order, and the parents failing to be able to communicate effectively is also not a bar to shared care arrangements. It must, however, reflect the practical reality of the arrangements made for the residents of the child. For example, it was not deemed appropriate when, in another case, Father only had 45 overnights per year.
So as you can see, shared care is not as simple as the name first suggests.