Questions about joint child care after parental separation and divorce have been engaging the interest of professionals of various profiles: social workers, family physicians, psychologists, psychiatrist, jurists and attorneys and institutions and bodies involved in custody decisions. All involved in the process of making custody decisions understand the level of responsibility when safety and stability of child development and future are at stake.
A divorce is usually preceeded by unsatisfactory partners’ relationship. It is not unusual that ex partners continue with their poor communication and have difficulties in separating their partner’s from their parental role.
Feeling that their ex partner is an inadequate partner for them, they have difficulties in accepting that s/he may be an adequate parent. They hardly maintain a friendly relationship and cooperate as parents of their children. Instead of encouraging their children to develop their relationship with the other parent, they transfer their negative emotions towards their ex partner onto their children. If such behaviour is intense, or if it persists without any improvement, there is a high risk of involving children into their parents relationship and of exposure to age inappropriate contents. In such situations parents often compete ‘who is the better parent’. Trying to present themselves as best they can, parents often highlight other parent’s shortcomings and encourage and/or support the child discarding the other parent.
This behaviour confuses their children and undermines their relationship with both parents. Children waste their energy in pleasing each parent in turn, which impedes their emotional development. Parents in divorce often put their children in the middle of their conflict by giving them the task of conveying their messages, asking them to keep secrets or to spy on other parent’s home. Children are thus in a conflict of loyalty towards their parents and are uncertain about one parent’s assessment of the other. If one parent denigrates the other in front of the child, the child feels half-denigrated. It all affects the child’s self-confidence, wellfare and emotional development.