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Survey – The majority of Belgians (69.5%) favour shared parenting law

June 25, 2012

A majority of Belgians (69,5%) favors joint physical care and residence of the children after divorce

Source: Belgium – Le Soir – Page 1 – Translated from French by Pieter Tromp – Monday, June 25, 2012

According to a poll conducted for the Francophone Belgian family and parenting magazine Filiatio, seven out of ten Belgians are in favor of equal accommodation or bilocation of the child between the homes of divorced parents. This type of care is far preferred above sole care arrangements for the children with one of the parents, combined with a “fortnightly weekend of access with the other parent ” (15.2%) or the “5/9” – parenting arrangement with the children staying five days with one of the parents, and nine days with the other parent ( 5.2%).

A clear difference was observed between the Belgian language communities: with joint physical care, residence and custody being more popular with the Flemish (81.2%) than with the Francophone (54.5%) community. “The socio-economic factor must play a role”, analyses Prof. Yves-Henri Leleu, a specialist in family law at the University of Liège (ULg): “Accommodation in alternating residence arrangements costs is more expensive: it takes two homes, two cars, etc.. Also the “northern (Flemish) counties” are more emancipated. Finally, there is certainly more family support services made available (crèches, nurseries …) on the Flemish side. “

Our information P.7

Divorce: Shared parenting is popular in Belgium

Source: Belgium – Le Soir – DORZEE, HUGHES – Page 7 – Translated from French by Pieter Tromp – Monday, June 25, 2012

Families – A survey by « Filiatio » confirms the attractiveness for equally shared physical custody, care and residence

A couple separates: Who will take care of the children? Mom or Dad, or both? The vast majority of Belgians favor alternating residence and shared parenting after the divorce.

According to a survey conducted by AEGIS / Deep Blue, on behalf of the magazine Filiatio (1), nearly seven out of ten respondents (69, 5%) favor an egalitarian accommodation of the children with both their parents after divorce.

This type of care is far preferred above sole care arrangements for the children with one of the parents, combined with a “fortnightly weekend of access with the other parent” (15.2%) or the “5/9” – parenting arrangement with the children staying five days with one of the parents, and nine days with the other parent (5.2%).

However, there is a clear difference between the north / the south: this mode of “custody” is praised more by the Flemish (81.2%) community than by the Francophones (54.5%). The reasons? “The socio-economic factor must play a role”, analyses Prof. Yves-Henri Leleu, a specialist in family law at the University of Liège (ULg): “Accommodation in alternating residence arrangements costs is more expensive: it takes two homes, two cars, etc.. Also the “northern (Flemish) countries” are more emancipated. Finally, there are certainly also more family support services made available (crèches, nurseries …) on the Flemish side.”

A view shared by the authors of the survey: “There is also greater professional support in family law in Flanders. And, conversely, greater resistance on the French side,” says Céline Lefevre from the magazine Filiatio.

“Avoiding Conflicts”
Either way, the results of this survey are surprising. They confirm the evolution of mentalities in Belgium and abroad (France, Spain, Italy …). This evolution results from a new legislative framework – the Belgian Bilocation Act of September 14, 2006 – in which judges are encouraged to review egalitarian care, residence and housing arrangements of the children with both parents with “priority”. Unless it is “manifestly contrary to the interests of the child.”

In order to decide, the judge takes into account different criteria (geographical distance, “the serious unavailability” of a parent, the age of the child, expressed non-interest in caring for the children or neglect of the children …). “The law does not require or prescribe a generalization of the bilocation formula, but focuses on advocating an agreement and avoiding disputes. If neither of the parents approves for joint physical custody, the judge will not impose it automatically,” says Professor Leleu.

But the trend is there: the “equally shared care and residence” has gradually become accepted and entering the customs. While it has both its advantages (maintaining bonds with both parents equally; giving free time to both parents …) and its disadvantages (instability and displacement, an obligation to “double” necessary accommodation facilities …), as is shown in a study by the University of Liège (Casman, 2010).

In addition, ‘part time’ parents also seem to have a typical profile: 30-40 years, higher educated, steady jobs with employers, having flexible working schedules, etc.

And in practice?
We do not have data to assess objectively the part of court decisions in favor of this type of care.

“In general”, Céline Lefevre adds, ”it seems that the egalitarian accommodation or bilocation is under-represented in court decisions. So there would be a discrepancy between what Belgian people think and what is applied by judges.”

“Each case is specific”, tempers Professor Leleu. “This type of accommodation is not applicable all the time. In some cases, it is counter-indicated (geographical distance from parents, tensions between the parents …). In addition, it requires a lot of dialogue between the former spouses (medical follow-up, sports activities …)”

The survey Filiatio has conducted also considered other aspects of family life (child report, the role of law, court delays …), including mediation. Again the conclusion is clear: more than six out of ten Belgians (64%) are in favor of “imposing obligatory mediation to separating parents.”

(1) This survey was conducted by telephone in March 2012 based on a representative sample of 500 people aged 18-70 years with a margin of error of 4.4%. (www.filiatio.be)

69.5%
This is the percentage of Belgians in favor of “equally shared physical care and residence”. With strong differences between the Flemish (81.2%) and the French (54.5%) communities in Belgium.

Original articles in French:

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