The Third International Conference on Shared Parenting recently concluded, co-sponsored by the National Parents Organization and the International Council on Shared Parenting. The theme of this year’s conference related to the concept of the “best interests of the child” in divorce, the source of protracted debate within both the academic and professional practice communities. Many years ago, Hilary Rodham, then a family lawyer, declared that children’s best interests are nothing more than an empty vessel into which adult prejudices are poured. Since that time, however, family scholars have taken a much more child-focused approach to the study of children’s needs and interests, a “best interests of the child from the perspective of the child” perspective.
Thus the question, “Have we reached a watershed in understanding the best interests of children in situations of family separation and divorce?,” was placed front and center during conference deliberations. Specifically, it was asked, have we reached the point where we can conclude with some confidence that the best interests of children are commensurate with a legal presumption of shared parenting responsibility for children and families, rebuttable in cases of family violence and child abuse? Are we at a point where the scientific evidence points in the direction of mandating that shared parenting becomes the foundation of family law?