Shared Parenting Guidelines: Consensus or Not?


There has been considerable debate among scientists about the best practice and policy regarding guidelines for shared parenting.  During the past few years there have been several reviews of the research evidence regarding shared parenting following divorce and the recommendations don’t always agree.  There are two new reports each with an array of scientists and practitioners.

So here is one interesting note.  Only Richard Warshak is on both lists.

One of these reports, authored by Richard Warshak, titled, “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children:  A Consensus Report” includes the endorsement of 110 scientists and practitioners.  In the introduction he writes,

“One hundred and ten researchers and practitioners have read, provided comments, and offered revisions to this article.  They endorse the article’s conclusions and recommendations, although they may not agree with every detail of the literature review” (Warshak, 2014, p. 46).

This is an impressive list of many of the major scientists who study divorce issues.  This list includes 79 professionals who list universities or research centers as their primary affiliation and 31 professional in clinical practice.  So what about the people who are not on the list:  There are a number of prominent scientists who are not on the list.  Were they contacted?  Did they refuse because they disagreed with the recommendations or were too busy to respond?  Perhaps they just didn’t like the whole idea of “endorsing” these conclusions.  Nevertheless, none of the other participants who compiled the following report and whose names are listed below are on Warshak’s “consensus” article, why not?  At least one answer is that there is not quite the consensus that Warshak presents.

The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts convened a task force to explore research regarding shared parenting.  In contrast to Warshak’s “consensus” view, the task force report provides various points of view, the disagreements and the research questions that need more study.  (This is the original unpublished Task Force Report.)  The most recent version of the report was made public in Family Court Review, April 2014. The editors write, 

“The Think Tank Report describes a series of research-based key points on which the multidisciplinary think tank participants agreed. Nonetheless, that agreement did not extend to how the consensus should be enacted into legislative or judicial policy to resolve contested parenting disputes” (Emery & Schepard, 2014).

Both of these reports are important to read and to study.  Perhaps the most important part of the Task Force report is the list of questions that still need more study.  There is still much to understand in order to provide guidance to practitioners and policymakers.

So here is the list of the AFCC Task Force Members:

Convenors: 

  • Arnold Shienvold, Ph.D. (Co-Chair),
  • Peter Salem, M.A. (Co-Chair),
  • Marsha Kline Pruett, Ph.D., M.S.L. (Co-Reporter),
  • J. Herbie DiFonzo, J.D., Ph.D. (Co-Reporter),
  • Bernie Mayer, Ph.D. (Facilitator),
  • Loretta M. Frederick, J.D. (Steering Committee),
  • Hon. Ramona Gonzales (Steering Committee),
  • Stacey Platt, J.D. (Steering Committee), and
  • Kyle D. Pruett, M.D. (Steering Committee).

Participants:

  • Nicholas Bala, J.D.,
  • Lawrence Jay Braunstein, J.D.,
  • Margaret F. Brinig, J.D.,
  • Bud Dale, J.D., Ph.D.,
  • Robin Deutsch, Ph.D.,
  • Hon. Grace G. Dickler,
  • Leslie Drozd, Ph.D.,
  • Robert Emery, Ph.D.,
  • William V. Fabricius, Ph.D.,
  • Hon. William Fee,
  • Jonathan Gould, Ph.D.,
  • Linda Fieldstone, M.Ed.,
  • Hon. Dianna Gould-Saltman,
  • Grace M. Hawkins, LCSW,
  • Leslye Hunter, LMFT,
  • Janet R. Johnston, Ph.D.,
  • Joan B. Kelly, Ph.D.,
  • Jennifer McIntosh, Ph.D.,
  • Anne Menard,
  • Irwin Sandler, Ph.D.,
  • Andrew Schepard, J.D.,
  • Richard A. Warshak, Ph.D., and
  • Justice R. James Williams.

Invited but unable to attend:

  • Chief Justice Diana Bryant (Family Court, Australia),
  • Jean Clinton, M.D.,
  • Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis (Colo. Sup. Ct., ret.),
  • Michael Lamb, Ph.D.,
  • Robert Marvin, Ph.D., and
  • Leslie Ellen Shear, J.D.
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