I recently attended an International Family Law Conference in Iceland and learnt that the post separation parenting experience is based on shared parenting (50/50) and that the children of separated parents usually spend one week on and one week off with each parent.

The Scandinavian experience is very similar. In the 1980s around 1% of Swedish children experienced shared parenting but it is now close to 50% and increases year on year. This can be compared with 9-12% of post separation shared parenting arrangements in England.

Of equal interest is the fact that only 2% of parenting disputes end up in the Swedish courts.

Context is everything so why is the Scandinavian experience so different to ours? It must have something to do with the fact that maternity/paternity leave has been available to both parents since 1974 so that there is a legal right to stay at home until the child is 18 months old, 16 months of which are paid. In practice, each parent might elect to take 8 months off work. There is also a legal right to work part-time until the child reaches 8 years, with sick leave until the child is age 12 years.

Pre-school child care is widely available and used by most parents. Co-parenting is the norm and the Swedish take research on child development and parenting very seriously with regular population studies around the quality of life for children, both physical, psychological and social. The studies, particularly by the Karolinska Institutet, lend support to the promotion of shared parenting arrangements. These demonstrate that children experience their relationship with each parent as similar to that experienced by children in nuclear families.

I specialise in parenting arrangements both as a lawyer and as a mediator. I perceive that the English law is moving in the direction of shared parenting where both parents are able and available. It is now usual to obtain parenting orders which divide the school term time 6 nights/8 nights out of 14 with holidays divided equally.