When parents separate, often their biggest concern is for the wellbeing of their child. Most parents want to make sure that their children will still get enough quality time spent with each person.

There is also a question of the responsibilities that come with having a child and making sure that they are evenly split between both parents following separation.

Ideally when people want this, they say they want to achieve “shared care”. However, with no legal definition of the phrase, we believe it is important that you really understand what it could mean.

It is also important to remember that contact between parent and child is primarily the right of the child.

What is shared care?

Before separating, arrangements will need to be made for the children involved. These arrangements will ensure that they get to spend a good amount of time with both parents.

In some cases, there will be existing reasons as to why the care of a child should not be shared, such as there being a risk to the child’s welfare. If there are no safeguarding concerns, there is a presumption that contact with both parents is in the best interests of the child and this should be promoted to the best of the parent’s ability.

Most parents will require some assistance in finding a childcare plan that suits both parties and making the appropriate arrangements so that this may happen.

Can it be achieved?

Ideally, most parents would wish for a 50/50 split of time with their children, but when you start to think about this, what does that mean?

Would one parent take one week and one take the other? An entire week away from your child could be upsetting for some parents as it can be viewed as a long time.

Would you split the week in half? Splitting the week in half can prove to be quite disruptive in a child’s life, especially when at school. All of a sudden homework and PE kits get lost, which could contribute towards disciplinaries or detentions at school.

Decision making is a big factor when sharing care of a child. Day to day decisions are made by whichever parent is looking after them at the time. However, both parents will usually have parental responsibility.

Parental responsibility means that both parents should be involved in making decisions about their child. Which means that even if the child is spending time with one parent, it should not affect the other parent’s ability to have a say in their life. No matter the arrangements agreed for a child, both parents should have equal say.

Subject to safeguarding issues, it should be possible to share care of a child in any way which suits both parents. Sometimes a 50/50 split does not work for some families and that’s normal.

One parent may work nights, or away from home in the week and in that case, the other parent may take care of the child Monday-Friday.

Situations vary for every family, but the main aim will be that the child gets to build a relationship and spend quality time with both parents, whilst the parents get to make joint decisions over the child.

At the heart of shared care is the child and no matter what the parents think might be best for them, a court will always carefully consider the circumstances and take the best interests of the child into account.

What if we cannot agree on contact arrangements?

If you and the other parent cannot agree on contact arrangements, or if the parent with whom the child lives is unreasonably preventing contact from taking place, you must first try mediation and to come to a mutual agreement out of court. If an agreement cannot be reached through mediation, it will be necessary to apply to the court for a child arrangement order.

However, if you make an application to court, you potentially risk not being entirely happy with the arrangements that are put in place.

If you are separating from your spouse and wish to achieve shared care of your child speak to one of our expert family team today, who can guide you through this time.  Farleys Solicitors offers a full scope of legal services, including divorce and separation. To speak to an expert solicitor today either call us on 01254606008 or contact us by email.