By Julie Garrison
Special to DadsDivorce.com
In today’s family law landscape, the concept of shared parenting stands out as a tare amidst an otherwise orderly countryside.
This is because the courts have been influenced by the longstanding attitude that shared parenting is not a beneficial joint child custody arrangement.
What roles do mothers and fathers play when it comes to shared parenting?
When joint custody was established and was thereby implemented in the majority of child custody arrangements, the intention was for divorced dads to have better access and more input into the lives of their children after divorce.
One parent became the custodial parent who cared for the child most of the time, and the other parent was deemed the noncustodial parent who had visitation.
However, within a joint custody arrangement, both parents were supposed to have equal decision-making power in the life of their child, i.e. joint legal custody. On paper, this looked good, but in practice, it usually wasn’t.
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Mothers Didn’t Cooperate
When a wife denied a father his right to see report cards, attend parent/teacher conferences, participate in his child’s sports events and other activities, he was sidelined as a nonproductive, nonessential player. Oftentimes, he was never even notified of important events in his child’s life until after the fact.
If he tried to make himself more prominent in his child’s life, he had to go through the court system. This was very costly, and it was difficult to make an ex-spouse comply with the subsequent court order without bringing the child emotional distress.
A Father’s Role
An important point in favor of shared parenting is understanding the powerful role a father plays in the life of a child. A daughter looks to a father as her role model for choosing the type of man that she will eventually marry.
If Dad is a wife beater, a daughter is more likely to marry one herself. But if Dad respects the mother of his daughter and her stepmother, the daughter is more likely to search out a respectful man in marriage.
A boy must bond with his father in order to learn healthy attitudes about marriage and parenting.
A writer on the site GreatDad.com shares the following:
“Dads play an important part in the development of their sons. The role of the father is, in fact, an important counterpart to the one played by the mother. Little boys look to their fathers for a representation of what ‘manliness’ means; this influence remains with them even as they grow up to become fathers themselves.”
A biological bond also exists, according to the GreadDad.com article:
“If little boys enjoy special closeness with their fathers, part of the reason is the common biological identity that they share. This mutual identification results in the development of a strong empathy between them.”
This is not to say that a stepfather cannot fulfill many of the identity needs of a biological father – because he can. However, multiple divorces and the emergence of boyfriends, fiancés and dads in a child’s life provide far less stability than the identity bond between a child and his/her biological father.
The importance of having dads remain an active, involved part of their children’s lives cannot be overstated.
Julie Garrison has been writing articles and short stories for the past 10 years and has appeared in several magazines and e-zines.