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Is joint care and custody really joint?

Care and custody refers to the decision-making powers of the parents - that is, rather than referring to the physical custody of the children, care and custody is an abstract concept dealing with decisions parents make for their children's upbringing.

Most often than not, care and custody is joint. This means that both parents have an equal say on the the upbringing and decisions pertaining to their children. This concept, is in itself a fair concept, which is aimed to ensuring that both parents know and partake in their children's upbringing. However, joint care and custody is unfortunately at times abused by parents who do not want the other parent to have an equal say in their children' upbringing. This leads to parents being excluded by the other parent from the decision making process which will eventually lead to parental alienation as the children will feel that the non-resident parent is not taking part in their upbringing, giving in to the false sense that the responsibility of their upbrining rests solely on the resident parent.

This exclusion takes place with resident parents not informing non-resident parents of decisions where consent is not formally requested. Needless to say, if consent is not formally requested, that does not mean that the non-resident parent should not be consulted with and consent eventually obtained. Having said that, exclusion takes place also where consent is requested. This takes place in the form of a fait accompli decision. This means that rather than consulting the non-resident parent, the resident parent puts forward the decision as already taken with consent being a mere formality required in this process. Here the non-resident parents feel excluded as they would not have partaken in the process of decision-making. Decision-making is not a rubber stamp but a process in itself.

Children are not a possession. Resident parents who want to exclude non-resident parents from the parental responsibility of bringing up children together are not only alienating the children from the non-resident parent but they are also treating their children as a possession. Children have a right in being brought up by both parents and taking away such a right is harmful to the children themselves which will create a vicious circle when it comes to parenting their own children when they eventually grow up.

Article written by Dr Ann Marie Mangion.

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