Understanding Society Scientific Conference 2019 - , University of Essex

The definition and practice of 'shared care' in the UK

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Day:Wed 3 Jul
  • Renee Luthra, University of Essex
  • TIna Haux, University of Kent

Shared parenting after separation, i.e. where children spend substantial amounts of time in both households, is fast becoming the most popular separation arrangement internationally with parents, politicians and the judiciary (FCR 2017). The UK is assumed to lag behind other countries in numbers of separated or divorced couples engaging in shared parenting (Haux et al. 2017). However, the actual prevalence and practice of shared care in the UK is difficult to assess due to the lack of an agreed definition and data on shared parenting practices in the UK being partial and fragmented (ibid, see also Bryson et al. 2017 and Bryson and McKay 2018). The little data that exist estimates shared parenting as between three and 19 per cent of separated couples (Fehlberg et al., 2014) but analysis of existing Understanding Society data on joint decision-making, overnight stays and contact time does not reveal clear patterns. The aim of this paper is to explore how shared care is understood, negotiated and practiced by separated families based on qualitative interviews with separated families drawn from Understanding Society. In particular, we will be exploring the language used to describe shared care, what elements are indeed shared (decision-making, contact arrangements, etc.), the motivations for shared care and the level to which children are involved in the decision-making, i.e. is it shared between the former partners or, in the case of older children, shared between all family members. The longer term aim of the project is to develop improved survey question in order to better capture this new phenomenon for the UK through large household surveys.