Shared parenting is pretty much what it sounds like: after a divorce, both parents continue to share the decision-making and responsibilities that go into raising their child. This means discussions about schooling, healthcare and even things like religion and extracurricular activities are decided on as a team. It also means the child gets to spend more equal amounts of time with each parent, which typically makes for happier children and happier parents.
Parents divorce for many reasons, but for kids, growing up in a home rife with tension and unhappiness it is far more damaging than the effect divorce has on them. However, researchers in the United Kingdom suggest that kids raised in a single parent home are more apt to experiment with smoking and alcohol at the age of 11.
Child custody arrangements with school-aged children can be difficult. Parents have to re-arrange schedules, coordinate meetings, and be available for much more than just evenings at home. However, sometimes issues arise in the middle of the school year that requires even further changes.
Once a parenting schedule is in place (see my blog on Child Custody), child support can be calculated. It must be calculated in a specific fashion and the parents may not agree to waive that obligation. The right to receive support belongs to the child and the parent cannot waive the child's rights.