Legal and Social Development of Shared Physical Custody in Europe


Since WW II, the role model in families has changed all over Europe from the “bread earning father and housewife”- ideal to both working parents with shared parental responsibility (legally and physically). This change has been followed by law in a first step already: Countries in Europe have changed from single legal custody after divorce to shared legal custody. As a second step law is changing from sole custody to shared physical custody. Looking at the development in several European countries makes a prognosis possible: shared parenting will be the legal presumption and getting “normal” soon. The European Convention on the Exercise of Children’s Rights and article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights guarantee for a parent and child, being together as an essential part of family life. Due to this and due to the doctrine of non discrimination to fathers, the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe passed in October 2015 Resolution No. 2079 “quality and shared parental responsibility: The role of fathers.” This resolution includes the strong recommendation to all nations to introduce into their laws the principle of shared residence following a separation, limiting any exceptions to cases of child abuse or neglect, or domestic violence.


Prof. Hildegund Sünderhauf
Lutheran University of Applied Sciences Nuremberg, Germany

Hildegund Sünderhauf has been Professor of Family Law and Youth Welfare Law at the Lutheran University of Applied Sciences in Nuremberg (Germany) for 17 years. She is the author of the first and only monograph about Shared Parenting in Germany and co-founder of the International Council on Shared Parenting. She was initiator of Resolution 2079 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe entitled “Equality and shared parental responsibility: the role of fathers”, that calls on the member states to “introduce into their laws the principle of shared residence following a separation”.

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