When I counsel divorcing couples regarding the overwhelming evidence that Shared Parenting is best for children, many respond by parroting myths perpetuated by attorneys. Family Law Attorneys are not trained in child psychology or development. They make conclusions of law which are often the result of personal biases - and even draw conclusions from meta-studies that are anathema to the authors. (1.a) & (1.b)
The myth I hear most often is that one parent must take on the primary role to maintain stability in the child’s life... ‘to ensure the continuity of schooling and extracurriculars, regular doctor appointments and dental exams’, etc. etc.(2) This makes a lot of sense at the surface level of analysis. But what are the second and third order effects of removing one parent from the child’s life more than 75% of the time - as is the case under the standard parenting order in Texas (and most states)?
- You disrupt young childrens' innate understanding that both parents matter equally and create emotional chaos for the child.(3)
- The unequal division creates a power struggle between the parents that often lasts a decade or more and emotionally damages the parents. Stability under these circumstances is a myth - damaged parents raise damaged children. Thriving parents raise thriving children. Shared parenting protects children from chaos and instability.(4)
A quick Google Search of the Psychology Today website for articles concerning 'The Best Interest of the Child' standard used by most U.S. Courts will yield almost universal panning of this outdated metric. Other popular standards (pushed primarily by lawyers) such as the "Approximation Rule" are obvious attempts at further muddying the waters to protect family law attorneys' interests.
When the relationship ends and parents move into separate homes, children and parents often fear that they'll lose regular contact - or the relationship will never be the same again. Very young children might be vocal about how much they miss mom or dad when they aren't with one or the other. They are still constructing relationships with both, and these bonds formed early in a child's life help to develop a foundation for future development. Allowing young children to live in both homes keeps the continuity of the relationship with both parents intact. This continuity is far more important than the continuity of any other aspect of a child's life.
(1.a) Linda Nielsen (2018): Joint Versus Sole Physical Custody: Children’s
Outcomes Independent of Parent–Child Relationships, Income, and Conflict in 60 Studies, Journal
of Divorce & Remarriage, DOI:
Excerpt from the article (1.a) citing Kari Adamsons' reaction (1.b) to misinterpretation of her meta-analysis:
Some have taken the non-significant association between contact and child well-being as an argument against joint physical custody... It should not be assumed that fathers do not need time with their children or that the amount of time spent does not matter... A father who only sees his children on Wednesday evenings and every other weekend, after which the child returns “home,” has extremely limited opportunities for engaging in children’s activities on a regular basis, being an authoritative parent or engaging in the types of everyday interactions that build relationships... How likely are children to view their fathers as “being there” for them, if fathers only can “be there” if the child’s need arises on 1–3 specified evenings or afternoons per week? Fathers should be given equal parenting time and encouraged to spend that time with their children in a variety of positive ways...
When it is known that father–child contact has positive benefits in some circumstances, but potentially a negative influence in others, to conclude and report that, on average, father contact is not important for children’s well-being is both inaccurate and misleading.
(1.b) Kari Adamsons (2018) Quantity versus quality of nonresident father involvement: Deconstructing the argument that quantity doesn’t matter, Journal of Child Custody, 15:1, 26-34, DOI:
(2) Warshak, R. A. (2015). Parenting By The Clock:
The Best-Interest-of-the-Child Standard, Judicial Discretion, and the American Law Institute’s “Approximation Rule”, CR43, law review, 81 journal pages.
(3) Warshak, R. A. (2017). Stemming the tide of misinformation:
International consensus on shared parenting and overnighting. Journal of the American
Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 30(1),177–217.
(4) Nielsen, L. (2017). Re-examining the research on parental conflict, coparenting, and custody arrangements. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 23(2), 211–231.