Equal parenting makes for benefits all round

By Claire Halliday
July 11, 2004

"I think that kids get a more balanced sense of both parents," says Sue Jackel of 50/50 parenting. As someone who has put the increasingly popular post-separation parenting model into practice for seven years, Ms Jackel says that the advantages to daughter Laura, 14, are obvious.

"As time has gone on I have seen benefits of having her have constant exposure to her father," says Ms Jackel, 43, whose 13-year marriage to Lindsay Jackel ended in 1997.

"One parent isn't seen as the grouchy rule-maker while the other parent is just the recreational one. This way both of us get an involvement in her real, day-to-day life," Ms Jackel says.

The typical alternative, fathers being given only fortnightly access to their children, was something Ms Jackel, a union organiser, says was never really an option.

Instead, 50/50 care was something the Jackels, despite personal differences, were able to settle in the early days of their separation, with the help through the Family Court of supportive counsellors.

"It was very important for me as a father to do the 50/50 parenting," says Mr Jackel, 47. "Laura was only seven at the time, but when I explained it to her she said, 'well, that's fair', and it is. If it had been any other way I would have been very unhappy." In Laura's primary school years, when Mr Jackel lived in the same suburb - Glen Waverley - as his former wife, the transition between week on/week off parenting was easy, he says. Laura's growth into adolescence, and his shift to Frankston, have made it a bit harder.

The Jackels formalised a written custody plan immediately after separating, but rotate access on special occasions, such as birthdays and Christmas.