Children are missing out on contact with their fathers finds DAD.info survey on post-separation parenting
- 38% of Mums say their children do not spend time with their Dads following separation or divorce
- One in five Dads (19%) who lost contact did not see their children for over six months
- The main reason parents gave for not seeing their children was to avoid further conflict with their ex
- A third of parents surveyed used the family courts to make childcare arrangements during their separation
Children are losing out on contact with their fathers when their parents separate according to the findings of a new survey published by the website DAD.info today. Over 1,000 divorced or separated parents took part in the survey (undertaken by independent data collection partner CINT) answering questions about contact arrangements for their children, support available to them during separation and their attitudes to co-parenting. The publication of the survey findings coincides with the launch of a new online course on co-parenting after separation which can be accessed free of charge from DAD.info.
The DAD.info survey found that during the process of separation, Dads go much longer periods without seeing their children than Mums. The main reason for this was not delays in court process (as might have been expected) but to avoid further conflict with their ex partners. Of the respondents who did see their children and had a good relationship with their ex-partner, a number of key trends emerged such as remaining amicable, keeping lines of communication open, time healing and showing respect for the other parent, particularly in front of the children.
38% of Mums say their children do not spend time with their Dads following separation or divorce. Almost two thirds of Dads (64%) do not see their children for a period of time when the relationship with the other parents breaks down compared with Mums (26%). 41% of these Dads do not see their children for four months or longer and almost one in five Dads (19%) did not see their children for over six months. The main reason parents gave for not seeing their children was to avoid further conflict with their ex. This was much more common in Dads (28%) than Mums (17%). Of the Dads who went over six months without seeing their children, one in four were told by their ex-partner that their children did not want to see them. A third of parents surveyed used the family courts to make childcare arrangements during their separation. Family mediation is a significant source of support during separation (cited by 32% of Dads and 25% of Mums) as was support from extended family (28% of Dads and 30% of Mums). Over 20% of parents sought advice from the internet. The most common piece of advice (cited by over one in four parents) was to “put the children first and prioritise their wellbeing or needs above your own personal feelings.”
Most parents no longer subscribe to an interpretation of co-parenting as being a binary 50:50 split in responsibility (only 14% of Dads and 15% of Mums think this) whereas 27% of Mums and 22% of Dads agree that despite being separated their parental responsibilities remain in full. However still a large proportion of parents are looking for a 50:50 split in time spent with their children (38% of Dads and 37% of Mums). Co-parenting to most means “equal rights and decision making for our child” (47%). A large proportion also recognise that having a good parenting relationship and good communication is what it is all about.
What the parents said:
Here is just a snapshot of the advice and experiences shared by the parents who took part in the survey:
“We both handled things badly and our child was the loser. If I could reach out to every parent making the same mistakes I would for the sake of the children. We do untold harm for the sake of what we think is best for kids but also for own egos. I hope this study can save children from the pain of traditional post break up parenting.”
“Put the kids first. Don’t use them as weapons to hurt the other parent and don’t try to brain wash them against the other parent and don’t allow your extended family to do this either.”
“Be fair. Try and keep calm and balanced. Time will heal wounds and your children need to see both parents.”
“Try very hard to keep your relationship amicable – the children notice this and it makes it less stressful for them if they see the parents still getting along.”
“Tell your kids you love them and although you are not there, reassure them you still love them.”
“Don’t use children to settle a score with your partner. If other parent wants to be part of their life, then be reasonable in ensuring that happens.”
“Maintaining a good relationship with the other party is important and from our perspective shows the children it doesn’t always have to be bad after a break up.”
“I think my ex-partner and I have progressed to a point where we both agree to disagree on certain issues but must try to co-operate with each other for the sake of my child.”
The charity Fegans, which owns and runs DAD.info provides professional one-to-one counselling for over 400 children each week. The single most common reason for children to be referred to them is because of family relationship difficulties and the effects of family breakdown.
“As a society we need to do so much more to acknowledge and openly discuss the damage that conflicted family breakdown can do to children. More needs to be done to help separating parents to resolve conflicts outside of the courts, access services such as family mediation and to support them towards the goal of long-term co-operative parenting,” says Ian Soars, CEO of Fegans and DAD.info
Fegans has developed a new online course about co-parenting after separation which can be accessed free of charge via DAD.info. The course includes on-demand lessons through animations and videos from parenting coaches and downloadable support materials. Parents sign up online and receive links to a new lesson each week for 10 weeks with an option to receive further parenting support beyond this.
DAD.info also hosts a forum with over 38,000 users giving free online peer support from those who have lived-in experience of separation and divorce. The forum is full of parents struggling to navigate the legal system and access support to resolve conflicts with their ex-partners, in particular regarding access arrangements for their children.