Shared Parenting Facts & Fiction
Research by Dr. Linda Nielsen
Professor of Education
Wake Forest University


Most children are satisfied with the amount of time they spend (or spent) with their fathers after their parents’ divorce.

As long as the mother has enough money, children don’t pay a price for having too little or no contact with their father.

Most divorced or never married parents are too hostile to share parenting or to benefit from programs on co-parenting.

Shared parenting is harmful for infants or young children because they should not be separated overnight from their mother.

When parents share parenting, children are worse off financially because their dad pays much less child support.

Children benefit more from living with their mothers because mothers have more impact on their well being than father do.

Most divorced fathers are not interested in having their children live with them more or spending more time together.

Shared residential custody fails for most families, thus creating unnecessary instability for children.

The general public is opposed to shared residential custody – a sentiment that is accurately reflected in our custody laws.


The vast majority of kids want – or wanted - more time living with their dads after their parents divorced.1-7

Children who live with both parents at least 30% of the time are equal or better on  measures of psychological, academic, behavioral and social well being.8-19

Preschoolers shouldn’t be separated from either parent for more than a few days & can spend nights in both homes.20-21

Dads who share parenting are more likely to pay child support & spend more for things such as college.22, 23

Dads contributes as much to children’s well being as moms do, even if their styles of parenting differ.24, 14

Most divorced dads want more time living together with their children.25-29

Children can benefit from shared residential custody even when their parents have ongoing verbal conflicts & are not on particularly friendly terms.9,10,12,14,20

Shared residential custody has been stable & successful for most parents.10,16,30

In recent public opinion polls men & women are overwhelming in favor of shared residential custody. 31, 32

Almost half of the children in the U.S. are deprived of the lifelong benefits of two parents who share the parenting throughout the first 18 years of their children’s lives. Who are children living with?

55% mother & father - 4% unmarried

21% single mother - half divorced & half never married

14% mom & stepdad

5% neither parent

2% mom & her boyfriend

2% single dad

1% dad & stepmom

.5% dad & his girlfriend


1Nielsen, L. Review of shared parenting research. In press
2Ahrons, C. We’re Still Family: What grownup children say about divorce, 2004.
3Fabricus W. Listening to children of divorce. Family Relations, 2003.
4Emery, R. The truth about children & divorce. 2004.
5Finley & Schwartz Father involvement & young adult outcomes. Family Court Review, 2007
6Harvey & Fine Children of Divorce: Stories of Loss and Growth. 2004.
7Amato & Dorius, Fathers, children & divorce in Lamb’s Father’s role in child development, 2010
8A quilino, W. Noncustodial father child relationships. Marriage & Family, 2010.
9Breivik & Olweus, Adolescents’ adjustment in four family structures. Divorce & Remarriage, 2006.
10Buchanan & Maccoby, Adolescents after divorce, 1996
11Fabricius et al. Parenting time & children’s outcomes in Lamb’s book, 2010.
12Juby et al. Sharing roles, sharing custody. Marriage & Family, 2005.
13Scott, Booth & King Post divorce father-adolescent closeness. Journal of Marriage and Family, 2007.
14Nielsen, L. Fathers & Daughters: Contemporary Research & Theory, Routledge, 2017 (in press)
15Lee, M. Childrens’ adjustment in dual & sole residence. Family Issues, 2002.
16Melli & Brown, Exploring the shared time family. Law, policy & family, 2008
17Prazen et al. Joint physical custody & friendships. Sociological Inquiry, 2011.
18Smyth, B. Five year summary of shared care in Australia. Family Studies, 2009.
19Spruijt & Duindam, Joint physical custody & children’s well being. Divorce & Remarriage, 2010
20Pruett et al. Collaborative divorce project. Family Court Review, 2005.
21Warshak, R. Overnight contact between parents & young children. Family Court Review, 2000.
22Fabricus & Braver. Divorced parents financial support of college expenses, Family Court Review, 2003
23Braver, S. Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths, 1998
24Lamb, M. The Father’s role in child development, 2010.
25Bokker, Farley & Denny. Well being among recently divorced fathers. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 2005
26Fagan & Hawkins. Educational Interventions with Fathers, 2003.
27Hallman & Deinhart. Fathers’ experiences after divorce. Fathering, 2007.
28Stone, G. Divorced fathers well being. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 2007.
29Frieman, R. Understanding noncustodial parents. Divorce & Remarriage, 2007.
30George, T. Residential time reports. Washington State Courts, 2008.
31Braver, S. Lay judgments on custody. Psychology, public policy & law. 2011.
32Fatherhood Coalition, Shared parenting election results, 2004.

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