The court has given me the option of an order for Shared Residence at the next hearing rather than another contact order.
My case has been rather long, we have already had 6 hearings each of which has produced a new contact order which has gradually increased the time I spend with my child.
However I cannot see the real advantage in an order for shared residence compared with a contact order, as long as the contact order defines a substantial amount of contact.
Some people think that shared residency gives both Mum and Dad equal rights as parents, where as in fact in the eyes of the law that is provided by parental responsibility, which I already have.
Shared residency is supposed to encourage cooperation between the parents, and ensure that they both play a significant role in the child''s life. However crucially if the Mother decides in the future not to cooperate or be awkward, then unlike a contact order, an order for shared residence cannot be enforced. It does not have a penalty notice attached at the end.
Therefore if you are not sure the Mother is going to cooperate in the future, an order for shared residency does not seem to have many advantages over a contact order, as long as the contact order defines a substantial amount of contact. For example lots of overnight stays with Dad, half the school holidays etc.
Bear in mind though things like the right to take child abroad on holidays that come with a residence order.
What penalties does a contact order really carry if the other party becomes awkward? There might well be a penalty for not complying with a contact order but usually it amounts to the offender being told they are very naughty and should play nicely.
The best option is often a shared residence order alongside an order for defined contact. This reminds both parents that they are equal in the eyes of the law, and also provides an order which, if necessary, can be enforced.
Shared parental responsibility, sometimes referred to as shared legal custody, is, I am afraid, worthless in terms of actually enabling contact.