International Support for Shared Parenting.
At the international conference on shared parenting, which was held 25-31
July 1999 in Langeac, France, there was unanimous agreement among delegates from
all countries that shared parenting best serves the interests of children,
parents and society in general. The promotion of shared parenting, both within
marriage and following marriage breakdown, was identified as a key priority
which should be supported by Government institutions.
Reports by delegates to the conference on the situation in their respective
countries will enable the newly formed International Committee on Shared
Parenting to identify 'best practice' in the promotion of shared parenting and
make recommendations to State authorities on a transnational basis.
At the conference agreement was reached on a draft document entitled 'the
declaration of Langeac', setting out the basic principles of shared parenting.
It is intended that this declaration will be further refined in consultation
with national organisations and a strategy for promoting shared parenting agreed
for next year's conference. The Irish delegation put forward a strong case for
hosting next year's conference and received a positive response from most
Declaration of Langeac
- Fathers and mothers should be accorded equal status in a child's life, and
consequently should have equal rights and equal responsibilities.
- Where the parents cannot agree, the children should spend equal time
living with each parent.
- Parenthood must be based only on the child-parent relationship, not that
between parents. Children have the right to know both parents and vice
The interests of the child
a) The interests of the child will not be viewed as a pre-defined and
separate entity from that of parents and family or as something to be
defined by the public authorities or professionals. Parents will act as the
medium for interpreting the interests of their children except in extreme
cases of individual abuse or parental incapacity.
b) The public authorities and third parties can and should be encouraged
to support families and individual family members when they need help and if
necessary proactively. However in no case except that of severe abuse should
they have the right to intervene where parents do not wish this.
c) The child has the right to communicate with his or her parents
whatever the situation.
d) Biological parenthood should be established at birth by way of DNA
testing. For any DNA test all material evidence and records should be
destroyed immediately the conclusion of parenthood (or non-parenthood) is
Elective contracts between parents
a) Parents will be able to sign legally valid contracts which may vary
their individual rights in regard to their children, eg: in the case of a
family split they may agree to make a non-equal division of time and
salaries if both so wish, or incorporate clauses involving spousal
maintenance. The governments bureaucracies involved in these areas are
charged with creating suitable blank contracts and formulae in order to
simplify the choices involved and the cost of such procedures.
b) Parents will have access to advice and structured agreements
(contracts) which will in all cases, be it via mediation or judicial
intervention, stand as valid instruments permitting the formalisation of
such methods as division of residential time, etc.
Respect for the individual freedom of action of each parent
a) ... will not be modified, except by the minimum requirements of
b) Geographical dislocation: where one or both parents wishes to move
somewhere far away, leading to potential problems of contact, transport
costs and disruption to children, may require outside authorities to make
decisions affecting the quantities of time spent with each parent. This is
because the free adult choice of where to live may be in conflict with the
compromises necessary to ensure parental residence. Decisions thus arrived
at must take into account all factors, including the need to find a job by
moving for instance, and the need to respect adult choices and decisions.
Assumptions based on the dogma of stable residence should not be made.
Adoptive parents, extended family and significant others
Children should have the right of access to and information from members
of the extended family on both sides and vice versa. The residential parent
at any given time should have the right of final decision over children's
contact with other parties excepting extended family, parents and adoptive
parents. The child retains the right to know both natural parents, of both
receiving and sending communications to them, with proof that this has
The Politico-legal Context
a) The politico-legal context within which family and gender issues are
decided must be clear and fair between the sexes, with neither positive or
negative discrimination. Relationships between men, women and children will
be treated in such a way as to preclude the development of group competition
and polarity between them. There should be no presumption that one group's
needs override the interests of others.
b) The interests of the child are defined by parents, together. In the
case of separation they are to be defined by each parent in their
residential time with the child. Only in the case where clear abuse against
the child is established may other parties or public bodies acquire the
right to override parental decisions in this repect. In all other cases,
their decision-making power should be limited to the ability to offer help
and support to families in need.
Equality at work
a) Both sexes should have equal right to parental leave from work.
b) Work structures should be planned so that both parents are able to
participate as fully as possible in the life of their children.
c) This indisputably requires the restructuring of employment so that in
many ways it reflects the work patterns of primary and secondary school
teachers. This proposal is made, of course, within the context of a global
reduction in the requirements for workers and in the light of general
awareness of the need to enrich the emotional and functional links between
Mediation, Judicial Discretion and Involvement of Professional Third
a) Mediated cooperation through professional third parties may be
preferable where children's welfare requires it. Residence should not be
dependent on the assessment by professionals of parental cooperation or
b) Certain decisions require joint consent. Structures should be put in
place to enable this, whether through third parties or directly. Examples of
such decisions: vaccinations (medical care), choice of school, residence
c) Only in the case that parents are not able to arrive at a mutual
agreement will the intervention of mediators in the first instance and of
the court as a final resort become necessary.
d) In cases where parents simply do not or cannot reach agreement, either
directly or through mediation, judges will have to make the decisions for
them. This does not imply that these outside authorities have the right to
decide the quantities of parental time, but only the distribution of the
quantities of time agreed by both parents or the default of 50 / 50.
e) Justice should not only be done but be seen to be done. In camara
proceedings should be avoided wherever possible. Where it is deemed
necessary or desirable to protect the identity / ies of the parties, records
of the proceedings and justification for the decision should be made
publicly available. In order to achieve this, proper stenographed records of
all proceedings must be kept.
f) Mediation should be available before, during and after divorce /
separation. Mediation must be independent from the courts. It must always be
a free public service, optional and gender neutral. Courts should respect
mediation agreements and mediation intervention.
a) If parents are financially capable, each parent is to be held
financially responsible for half the costs of childcare. This cost may be
pre-determined on the basis of minimum child maintenance and childcare
costs, which will be the responsibility of parents in the first instance,
and of the state or other responsible bodies where parents do not or cannot
fulfill their obligations.
b) Any other agreements or contracts between the parents regarding
financial maintenance and other childcare issues may be freely entered into
by mutual accord between both parents. That is to say, both parents can
mutually sign legally valid contracts varying their basic rights, for
example, by giving more or less rights to money or residential time to one
or the other parent.
i) cruelty; ii) negligence; iii) violence; iv) sexual abuse should be
dealt with under the relevant criminal law, not the laws of residence and
equal parenthood. The presumption of innocence until proven guilty should
apply in all cases except those at b) below.
a) Evaluation of child abuse should be without prejudice. The four types
of abuse will have no order of priority in judicial decisions. Unless
accusations are of such gravity that they affect the immediater safety of
the child, no decision to suspend residence with either parent should be
b) Where accusations exist and residence has been suspended, immediate
provisonal investigation to assess dangers of residence should take place,
with a maximum of a two weeks' delay permitted before 50 / 50 or other
agreed double residence is restored. Separation should not be used as an
opportunity for revising the residence rights to one of the parents.
c) False accusations of perjury should be severely dealt with under the
d) As parental alienation damages the child-parent relationship, it is
detrimental to the best interests of the child, and should be viewed as a
form of child abuse. Actions by state authorities which damage child-parent
relationships should also be viewed as a form of child abuse and carry
Cases which do not concern equal parenthood
EP does not directly address cases where one or both parents refuse or
cannot take up their parental responsibilities in respect of their children,
to care for and maintain them. It only addresses those cases where both
parents want to look after and be responsible for both of their children.
Within EP it is recongnised that to force a parent to look after their child
physically when they state they do not wish to is probably inadvisable.
However, given that financial obligations to care for the child exist, the
need to provide care for the child are available, either through the aprents
or the state. Equal, child abuse is under EP, regarded as a distinct and
... are defined as the biological parents or in the case of severe abuse
by biological parents or where children are orphaned, the adoptive parents.
... is taken to mean a human being from birth to the age of emancipation
or majority, whichever is the lower.
...is a child and it's biological or adoptive parents.
... are the blood relatives of the child or his or her adoptive parents.
Each part of this declaration is integral to the whole and cannot be applied
outside the context of the other clauses.
Signed on Friday 30 July 1999 by members of the following groups (subject to
Asociación Gallega de pais e nais separados (Galicia, Spain)
Corporación de Padres (Chile) Dutch parents' group platform - SCJF German,
Dutch, English (non-affiliated)
Parental Equality, Amen (Ireland) Unión de Separados (Spain)
Subsequent Signatories should date their adherence to this Declaration and
then add any reservations or recommendations they may wish to include,
specifying if these are for local or universal application. This declaration is
subject to ratification at an international family conference to be held in
Ireland in August 2000.