Sixteen Arguments for Equal Parenting

Sixteen arguments for an equal-parental-responsibility presumption. (As presented by Dr. Kruk in “The Equal Parent Presumption“)


1. Equal parenting preserves children’s relationships with both parents.

  • Primary residence arrangements highly correlated with parental alienation and parental disengagement (Kruk 2010a, Kruk 2010b, Amato, Meyers and Emery 2009)
  • Children of primary residence arrangements spend 30% more time in substitute care (Melli and Brown 2008, Lamb and Kelly 2009)
  • Regular interaction with both parents is psychologically important for toddlers (Lamb and Kelly 2009, Pruett et al 2003)


2. Equal parenting preserves parent’s relationships with their children.

  • The constraints of traditional access is strongly associated with contact loss, 30% of children of divorce have no contact with their nonresidential fathers (Kruk 2010 a/b; Amato, Meyers and Emery 2009)
  • Parents who lose contact with their children after divorce manifest post-traumatic stress (Kruk 2010a/b)
  • Suicide among divorced parents 2.4 times higher than non-divorced (Kposowa 1999)
  • Suicide among divorced fathers 9.8 times more likely than divorced mothers (Kposowa 2000)
  • Custodial parents overwhelmed by the sole responsibility of care and are less physically and emotionally available (Lamb and Kelly 2009; Kelly 2007; Kelly 2003)
  • Sole custody reinforces women’s traditional economic dependence on men, equal parenting would put pressure on governments to address the wage gap between men and women (Pulkingham 1994)

3. Equal parenting decreases parental conflict and prevents family violence.

  • Equal parenting schedules usually provide less parental contact than a s.p.o. schedule
  • Negative consequences of parental conflict on children are diminished with shared parenting (Pruett et al 2003)
  • Positive effects of equal parenting are independent of parental conflict (Sandler et al 2008, Gunnoe and Braver (2001), Bauserman (2002) and Fabricuis and Leucken (2007)
  • Equal parenting counters the harmful effects of parental conflict (Fabricius, Diaz and Braver 2012)
  • Analysis of 50 North American studies conclude that equal parenting was associated with less parental conflict and less relitigation (Bauserman 2012)
  • Parental conflict increases with primary residence arrangements (Bauserman 2012 and 2002, Melli and Brown 2008)
  • Half of first time family violence occurs after divorce in the context of a primary residence system (Ellis and Wight-Peasley 1986; Hotton 2003; Johnson and Hotton 2003, Johnston , Roseby and Keuhnle 2009)
  • If the wrong choice is made in a primary residence based system, a child could end up in the care of a more abusive, adversarial and alienating parent (Richardson 2006)
  • Most parents can learn to minimize conflict if incentivized and equal parenting provides that incentive (Kruk 2008)
  • Conflict should not be a factor in determining the parenting plan, unless the conflict involves documented history of physical abuse or violence (Nielsen 2013)

4. Equal parenting reflects children’s preferences and views about their needs and best interest.

  • Children strongly favor equal parenting (Fabricius 2003; Finley and Schwartz 2007)
  • Adults who went through divorce as children would have prefered equal parenting [70% of primary residence and 93% of shared parenting arrangements] (Fabricius 2003)
  • Children of primary residence arrangements had feelings of insecurity  and rejection by the non-custodial parent as well as anger towards both parents for not allowing an opportunity for a meaningful relationship with both parents (Fabricius 2003)

5. Equal parenting reflects parent’s preferences and views about their children’s needs and best interest.

  • Public opinion polls suggest 80% of population want equal parenting (Nanos Research 2009; Fabricius et al 2010)
  • Disconnection between the opinion of legal professionals and public opinion (Pruett, Hoganbruen, and Jackson 2000)
  • Parents agree that equal parenting is in the best interest of the child (Kruk 2010a/b)

6. Equal parenting reflects child care-giving arrangements before divorce.

  • Children form primary attachment bonds with both parents (Rutter 1995; Lamb and Kelly 2009)
  • Parental responsibilities are nearly equally shared in marriage (Atwood 2007; Marshall 2006; Bianchi, Robinson and Milkie 2006, Pew Research Center 2015)

7. Equal parenting enhances the quality of parent-child relationships.

  • Equal parenting arrangements allow parents to exercise all of their parental responsibilities (Flouri 2005)
  • Attachment bonds are formed  through participation in daily routines (Lamb and Kelly 2009; Fabricius et al 2010)
  • Parents need quantity of time to get quality of time (Amato and Dorius 2012)
  • There is a direct relationship between quantity of time and quality of parent-child relationships (Amato and Dorius 2012; Lamb and Kelly 2009; Kruk 2010a; Fabricius et al 2010, Fabricius et al 2011)
  • For children, attachment and feelings of “mattering”, cared for and cared about are not possible within the constraints of a primary residence arrangement (Trinder 2009)
  • Closeness, warmth and mutual understanding are elusive within constraints of the traditional primary residence model (Smyth 2009)
  • Equal parenting puts less burden and stress on parents (Bauserman 2012)

8. Equal parenting  decreases parental focus on “mathematizing time” and reduces litigation.

  • Too much debate in litigation is spent on “mathematizing time” (Smyth 2009)
  • Scarcity of resources due to ongoing litigation accounts for much of the negative impact of divorce (Semple 2010)
  • Less hostile litigation is a key factor in contributing towards co-parenting (Bonach 2005)
  • In Australia, after equal parenting was implemented, 72% of parents now settle divorces without legal services (Kaspiew et al 2010; Kaspiew et al 2009)

9. Equal parenting provides an incentive for inter-parental negotiation, mediation and the development of parenting plans.

  • In Australia, after equal parenting was implemented, 72% of parents now settle divorces without legal services (Kaspiew et al 2010; Kaspiew et al 2009)
  • Ordered equal parenting within a hostile divorce gradually gives way to cooperative co-parenting (Birnbaun and Fidler 2005)

10. Equal parenting provides a clear and consistent guideline for judicial decision making.

  • In making decisions regarding custody and access judges do not consult relevant research (Kelly and Lamb 2000) and are highly susceptible to error bias (Firestone and Weinstein 2004; McMurray and Blackmore 1992)
  • Judges routinely make mistakes and award custody to the more litigious parent, children then run the risk of being exclusively in the care of an abusive parent (Melton 1989)
  • Although many cases are settled out of court, the judges decisions set the precedence (Kruk 1991)
  • Equal parenting provides a clear evidence based definition of the child’s needs in divorce (Emery 2007)

11. Equal parenting reduces the risk and incidence of parental alienation.

  • Parental alienation affects a sizeable number of children of divorce (Bernet et al 2010; Baker 2005; Bala, Hunt and McCarney 2010)
  • Consensus is that severe alienation is abusive to children (Fidler and Bala 2010)
  • Parental alienation flourished when one parent has exclusive care and control (McMurray and Blackmore 1992)

12. Equal parenting enables enforcement of parenting orders, as parents are more likely to abide by an equal parenting order.

  • Access denial is endemic in primary residential arrangements (Kruk 2010a)
  • Rank ordering of parents fuels discord (Warshak 2007)
  • With equal parenting neither parents relationship with their child or their parental identity is threatened (Kelly 2007, Kruk1993b)
  • Parents more likely to abide by an equal parenting order which is perceived as fair, than a traditional visitation order which they perceive as giving them veto power or is inherently biased (Brinig 2001)

13. Equal parenting social justice imperatives regarding protection of children’s rights.

  • Children with married parents have the protection of the “strict scrutiny” due process measure, which must be observed before their parents can be taken away. Whereas children of non-married parents have a less strenuous standard, the “best-interest-of-the-child” discretionary standard.

14. Equal parenting social justice imperatives regarding parental authority.

  • No basis in law or psychology for choosing one parent over the other, when both are “good enough” (Kelly and Johnson 2005)
  • Unequal parenting arrangements are perceived as unfair and ths more likely to break down than equal parenting arrangements (Warshak 2007; Melli and Brown 2008; Brinig 2001)
  • Shared and equal parenting arrangements are stable over time (Berger et al 2008; Cashmore and Parkinson 2010; Brinig 2001)

15. The discretionary best-interest-of-the-child/sole custody module is not empirically supported.

  • The legislatures continue to enact or maintain laws and family judges issue residential orders that directly contradict empirical research data and the teachings of child psychologist and sociologist specializing in child welfare. (Kelly 1991)

16. A rebuttable legal presumption of equal parenting responsibility is empirically supported.

  • Meta-studies comparing equal parenting and non-equal parenting arrangements found significantly better outcomes for children in equal parenting himes on all measures of general and divorce-specific adjustment (Bauserman 2002/2012)
  • Studies comparing court ordered equal parenting (against objections of parents) and self selected equal parenting found both fared equally well, confirming the findings of earlier studies that equal parenting works equally well for conflictual families (Benjamin and Irving 1989; Brotskey, Steinman and Zemmelman 1988)
  • Mounting evidence reflects consensus on the issue that equal parenting is optimal for the majority of children of divorce whose parents are in dispute (Fabricius et al 2010; Bauserman 2012; Nielson 2013)
  • In Australia where equal parenting has been enacted, to a degree, a review of equal parenting legislation indicates that an equal parental responsibility presumption is widely supported by both parents and professionals, is beneficial and is working well for children, including children under three, according to parents; child custody litigation rates have dropped and most families of divorce settle within a year with no use of legal services; they are making use of alternate dispute resolution centers; equal parenting arrangements are durable and there is no evidence that high conflict has a more negative affect for children in equal parenting homes than children in primary residence home.  (Kaspiew et al 2009)

One Commentto Sixteen Arguments for Equal Parenting

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