It has been a long accepted practice that when parties separate or divorce, any minor children that were born during the relationship or marriage will primarily reside with one parent, usually the mother, while the other parent, usually the father, has reasonable rights of contact with the child(ren). While this has been accepted practice for several years, it is no longer the only solution available to parties.

Many separating or divorcing parties are now considering whether or not to implement a Shared Residence Scheme to ensure that both parents have an equal amount of time with their child(ren) after separation or divorce.

Share residencey is an place or scheme where the primary residence and care of minor children alternates between the parents at regular intervals (eg. Every week). The time between alternating is largely dependent on the age and maturity of the children involved. Older children would likely be able to copes if their residency alternated on a weekly basis, however younger children may not be able to cope with being separated from one aren’t for such a long period of time.

For shared residency to work it requirement commitment from mutually supportive parents and generally requires the following elements to be present:


    The physical location of the child(ren)’s school and both parents houses plays a large role. Ease of movement and ease of alternating residency is an integral part of achieving a working shared residency plan. (Eg. If both parents residences are similar distance from each other and the school, it is likely shared residency could physically work. On the other hands if the distances are dissimilar from each other and the school, it may indicate that shared residency wont physically work).


    Parents must be able to effectively communicate, engage and support one another in implementing any shared residency plan. This also means that the parents should have adequate social and financial resources to implement the plan. Parents who are extremely acrimonious to one another may find that shared residency is not viable for the sole reason that it increases the need to communicate and reach understandings.



    While shared residency may seem ideal to many parents, this does not automatically mean it is ideal for the child(ren) involved. The true question that must be asked to determine whether any care and contact structure will work is whether the structure is ideal for the best interests of the child(ren) involved. Certain children may find sharing their residency to be stabilising while others will find it incredibly destabilising. Ultimately each case must be decided on its own merits and in the best interests of the child.


It will have to be determined if shared residencey is a viable option for parents and children in each individual case and if there is any doubt, or parties cannot agree on an appropriate course to follow, a suitable professional should be engaged to assess the family and determine if shared residency is viable and in the best interests of the children concerned.

Shared residency is fast becoming a preferred option for separating or divorcing parties, especially as gender roles within relationships, society, family and employment are changing with a view to ensuring equality.

In conclusion share residency is an alternative option to the age old accepted practice which could be more beneficial not only to parents, but the entire family.



Nuno Palmeira

About Ian Mc Laren

Ian McLaren BA LLB (WITS) General Educated St Johns College, Houghton. BA LLB University of the Witwatersrand 1984 Founded McLarens September 1986. Right of Appearance High Court, October 1996. Expertise Litigation, Labour Law, Commercial Law, Family Law, Pension and Provident Funds, Customs and Excise, Wills, Deceased Estates, Trusts, Commercial Agreements, Reviewing and Drafting Government Legislation, Information Technology. Committees/ Trusts Law Society of South Africa Information Technology Committee. Trustee Verney College Educational Trust Other Transvaal Provincial colours for Practical Shooting. Third degree Black Belt JKS Karate. Photographer and motor cyclist Lectured for Continuing Legal Education on Information Technology issues.

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