Post-separation parenting

The latest material added to the Australian Institute of Family Studies library database is displayed, up to a maximum of 30 items. Where available online, a link to the document is provided. Many items can be borrowed from the Institute's library via the Interlibrary loan system.

See more resources on Post-separation parenting in the AIFS library catalogue

Parenting arrangements after separation: evidence summary

Australian Institute of Family Studies
Southbank, Vic. : Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2019.
Over the past 10 years, the Australian Institute of Family Studies has conducted several large-scale studies involving nationally representative samples of separated parents. This paper highlights the findings relating to parenting arrangements after separation. It provides information on the most common parenting arrangements after separation, how common it is for parents to go to court, and what court orders are made for custody. There is considerable variation in the ways that families arrange their children's care after separation, with issues such as the children's age and the parents' working patterns playing a significant role in decision making. Most parents (97%) don't go to court to make these arrangements: they decide matters between themselves, and only about 6% consult lawyers to help them make arrangements. Many of cases that do go to court often involve complex issues such as family violence or mental health issues.

Australian post-separation parenting on the smartphone : what's 'App-ening?

Smyth B and Fehlberg B
Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law v. 41 no. 1 2019: 53-71
Online resources for separated families are becoming increasingly available. This article reviews new developments around smartphones in Australia and investigates the use of digital applications ('apps') by parents. Interviews were conducted with 35 separated parents regarding their awareness of relevant smartphone apps, the extent to which they are being used, and what functionality they'd appreciate. Though many separated parents already use email and text messaging, there is growing interest in using technology to manage parenting arrangements, schedules, and child-related expenses. The article concludes with the implications for family law policy and practice.

Does shared parenting help or hurt children in high-conflict divorced families?

Mahrer N, O'Hara K, Sandler I and Wolchik S
Journal of Divorce and Remarriage v. 59 no. 4 2018: 324-347
Research indicates that shared parenting is generally associated with better child adjustment following divorce, but there is disagreement about whether this holds true in cases of high parental conflict. This article attempts to untangle the evidence to help inform policy recommendations. It evaluates the different analytic approaches used in assessing whether the benefits of time or quality of parenting persist even when there is a high level of conflict between the parents following the divorce. It then reviews 11 Australian and overseas studies on the joint effects of conflict, parenting time, and parenting quality on children's postdivorce adjustment. It also considers the impact of the different methodologies used by these studies. Despite the limited number and heterogeneity of the studies, some tentative conclusions can be made, highlighting the impact of parenting quality, gender, and time since the divorce. The available evidence does not support a policy against shared parenting, but does provide some guidance on the factors that should be considered when making decisions about parenting time in high-conflict cases.

Children and young people in separated families: family law system experiences and needs

Carson R, Dunstan E, Dunstan J and Roopani D
Melbourne : Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2018.
This report was commissioned to learn more about children and young people's experiences of the family law system during parental separation and how the system could better meet their needs. 61 children and young people aged 10-17 years old were interviewed, with 47 parents also helping with background information. The findings provide rich insights into the experiences and needs of children and young people, as well as the pathways used to resolve family law matters. Topics include: issues important to children and young people in making post-separation parenting arrangements, valued supports in dealing with parental separation, flexibility and changes in parenting arrangements, building post-separation relationships with parents, meaningful participation in decision making, experiences of the family law system, acknowledgement of their views and experiences, services that supported participation in decision making, and professional services and support considered effective by children and young people.

Shared-time parenting after separation in Australia : precursors, prevalence, and postreform patterns.

Smyth B and Chisholm R
Family Court Review v. 55 no. 4 Oct 2017: 586-603
One aim of the 2006 Family Law reforms in Australia was to encourage equal shared-time arrangements for children in separating families where possible. Though the uptake of shared-time arrangements gradually increased early this century, they appear to have plateaued or even declined in recent years. Correspondingly, more recent family violence amendments that give greater weight to protecting children from harm lead have not led to a marked decline in shared time. Neither legislative reform appears to have led to marked changes in the incidence of shared-time arrangements. This article explores the possible reasons for this surprising outcome, with reference to trends in consent orders and detail in parenting orders.

Is there still no room for two mothers? Revisiting lesbian mother litigation in post-reform Australian family law.

Kelly F, Robert H and Power J
Australian Journal of Family Law v. 31 no. 1 Jul 2017: 1-26
In 2008, new parentage provisions were introduced to Australia's Family Law Act (the 'FLA') that extended legal parentage to lesbian co-mothers - the mother who has not given birth to the child - where conception occurs via assisted reproduction. It was presumed by advocates and scholars that the new intention-based laws would overcome many of the challenges faced by lesbian co-mothers who had previously relied on notions of 'functional family' to assert recognition of their parentage. This article explores the impact of the 2008 parentage amendments on Australian intra-lesbian parenting disputes, asking whether the intention-based model adopted by the FLA has changed the way in which parentage decisions are resolved and, in particular, whether it has created the relatively level, predictable and lesbian-centred starting point that experts anticipated. It also considers what happens after parentage is determined, analysing how judges approach questions of parental responsibility and parenting time in cases where both women are declared legal parents. It is concluded that the 2008 reforms represent a progressive acknowledgement of non-biological lesbian parenting in Australian society. Australian law now gives legal authority to the notion that children can have two mothers. However, judges, experts and birth mothers often diminish the role of co-mothers as parents (and mothers) when it comes to questions of parental responsibility and time.

Shared-time parenting : evaluating the evidence of risks and benefits to children.

Smyth B, McIntosh J, Emery R and Higgs Howarth S
Drozd, Leslie, ed. Saini, Michael, ed. Olesen, Nancy, ed. Parenting plan evaluations : applied research for the family court. 2nd ed. New York : Oxford University Press, 2016. 9780199396580: 118-169
Shared-time parenting - or joint custody - has grown in use for parenting arrangements following divorce or separation and is emerging as a new family form in many western nations. This chapter discusses the broad domains to consider in determining whether shared-time arrangements will benefit children or put them at risk. It discusses the conceptual, measurement and sampling issues within research on this issue and summarises the key findings, strengths and limitations of the latest international studies.

On laughter and loss : children's views of shared time, parenting and security post-separation.

Sadowski C and McIntosh J
Childhood: A Global Journal of Child Research v. 23 no. 1 Feb 2016: 69-86
This article explores which parental behaviours create a sense of security among children in shared time arrangements. Drawing on descriptive phenomenology, the study, with Australian school-children, investigates the conditions which contribute to a child's perceived security and contentment in shared time - such as cooperative, child-oriented and flexible co-parenting - and the conditions which contribute to insecurity - including longing for the absent parent.

Infants and overnight care - post separation and divorce: background paper

Australian Association for Infant Mental Health
Doublebay, NSW : Australian Association for Infant Mental Health, 2015.
The Australian Association for Infant Mental Health has released guidance on parenting arrangements for infants and toddlers in separated families. This background paper provides the foundation for that guidance, by reviewing the current available research in relation to overnight care arrangement of children aged three years and under in families where the parents do not live together, due to family separation or because the parents have never lived together. Eight studies are reviewed, noting issues of parent conflict, attachment, child outcomes, and gender. As the research is minimal and inconsistent, the Association is of the view that a cautious approach to overnight care is required.

Rewriting Part VII of the Family Law Act.

Rhoades H
Australian Family Lawyer v. 24 no. 3 Jul 2015: 3-16
This article presents findings from a recent research project on how the law around settling children's care arrangements could be simplified. It reports on in-depth interviews with judges and lawyers on their day-to-day work experiences with parenting matters and the impact of the 2006 Family Law amendments. The findings highlight the continued existence of practice challenges associated with the legislation, including productivity and workload and clients' and litigants' understanding of the law.

Responding to concerns about a study of infant overnight care postseparation, with comments on consensus : reply to Warshak.

McIntosh J, Smyth B and Kelaher M
Psychology, Public Policy, and Law v. 21 no. 1 Feb 2015: 111-119
The article 'Social science and parenting plans for young children: a consensus report' by Richard Warshak, published in this journal in 2014, presented the 'consensus conclusions' of 111 researchers and practitioners - from Australia and overseas - on shared care arrangements for children under 4 years of age. It also challenged the findings of McIntosh, Smyth and Kelaher (2010) on the relationships between overnight care patterns and psycho-emotional development in infants and young children. In this reply, the authors of that 2010 article respond to those challenges and misrepresentations and refute one of Warshak's central theses: that their study's design and results favor primary care by mothers and discourage overnights and shared parenting for fathers.

Children's views about parental separation.

Qu L and Weston R
The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children annual statistical report 2014. Melbourne, Vic. : Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2015: 13-37
Children have traditionally been shielded from involvement in separation and living arrangements, in part to protect them from any distress but also due to the belief that children have difficulty articulating their views and making meaningful contributions. This chapter explores the opinions of 12-13 year old children from separated families, drawing on new data from 'Growing Up in Australia, the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children' (LSAC). It investigates how the children felt about their parents' separation, how they described the quality of their parents relationship, the proportion who wanted and believed they did have input into decisions affecting their living arrangements, their views about their care-time arrangements, and how their views differed by gender, duration of parental separation, and their care-time arrangements. The findings reveal that children's views about parental separation are diverse and that children in this age group want to have a say in their own living arrangements.

Attitudes to post-separation care arrangements in the face of current parental violence.

Moloney L, Weston R and Qu L
Family Matters no. 96 2015: 64-71
Determining appropriate post-separation parenting arrangements in cases of alleged or proven family violence is an ongoing issue. One of the factors involved in this difficult area of decision-making is community attitudes to family violence. This article examines public attitudes to child contact or shared care in cases of parent violence towards the other parent, drawing on data from the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes. The survey reveals that a significant proportion of the community appear willing to endorse continued parenting arrangements in the face of family violence, suggesting that some individuals do not see this violence as an obstacle to a perceived need for children to continue have both parents in their lives. The article then considers these attitudes in light of evidence from the Longitudinal Study of Separated Families (LSSF) - a large-scale study conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Infants and overnight care - post separation and divorce

Australian Association for Infant Mental Health
Doublebay, NSW : Australian Association for Infant Mental Health, 2015.
Written for parents and professionals, this paper presents guidance from the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health on parenting arrangements for infants and toddlers in separated families. The first three years of a child's life are significant periods of development, and overnight care away from a primary caregiver may place infants at risk of stress. This paper highlights the factors that impact on infant development and presents recommendations that prioritise the needs of the infant. A background paper has also been prepared that discusses the research evidence.

When mothers stay: adjusting to loss after relocation disputes

Parkinson P and Cashmore J
Rochester, N.Y. : Social Science Research Network, Social Science Electronic Publishing Inc., 2014.
This paper explores the experiences of mothers after an unsuccessful relocation dispute in Australia. Fifteen women were interviewed three times over a 4-5 year period after they had unsuccessfully applied to relocate, regarding issues such as coping and adjusting, accepting the decision, and the relationship of the children with their father. Four factors seemed to have made the most difference in terms of being able to adjust - or not - to the adverse outcome: the degree of control they were able to exercise over their own future; their recognition that the children benefited from a close relationship with their father; the father's degree of involvement with, and responsibility for, the children; and the level of toxicity in the father-mother relationship. The implications for improving decision-making in relocation cases is also discussed. The findings are part of a broader longitudinal study of the outcomes of relocation disputes.

Parenting plans for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers : research and issues.

Nielsen L
Journal of Divorce and Remarriage v. 55 no. 4 2014: 315-333
Determining the best parenting care plans for young children is one of the most controversial and complex questions facing separated parents and decision makers. However, it is of concern that there is currently no single review of all of the empirical research on this issue, with parenting plan decisions and custody recommendations being made based only on a few studies. To help address this gap, this article critiques the available international and Australian research on the outcomes of different care plans on young children.

Woozles : their role in custody law reform, parenting plans, and family court.

Nielsen L
Psychology, Public Policy, and Law v. 20 no. 2 May 2014: 164-180
This article explains how social science research can be misused, abused, or distorted, illustrated with a case study of recent international and Australian articles on child custody and care arrangements. The use, abuse and misuse of social science research is sometimes referred to as "the woozle effect" or "woozles" - named after a case of misinterpretation in a Winnie the Pooh children's story. Decisions on policy issues can benefit from social science research, but the research must be methodologically sound and properly applied.

Can Part VII of the Family Law Act do what is asked of it?

Rhoades H, Dewar J and Lewers N
Family Law Review v. 4 no. 3 Oct 2014: 150-169
This article explores the capacity for legislation governing children's post-separation care to perform the multiple functions envisaged for it, and asks whether it is possible for a single legislative framework to "speak to" multiple audiences, including separating parents and the family law system's different professional communities. Its analysis draws on a recent empirical study which examined the relationships between Pt VII of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) and the day-to-day work of lawyers, judges and family dispute resolution practitioners.

Social science and parenting plans for young children : a consensus report.

Warshak R
Psychology, Public Policy, and Law v. 20 no. 1 Feb 2014: 46-67
This article presents the consensus conclusions of 111 researchers and practitioners - from Australia and overseas - on shared care arrangements for children under 4 years of age. The main author reviewed the literature on the extent to which young children's time should be spent predominantly in the care of the same parent or divided more evenly between both parents, and whether young children should sleep in the same home every night or spend overnights in both parents' homes, and his conclusions and recommendations were reviewed by the endorsing 110 researchers and practitioners. The article aims to provide the family court system with guidance on developing parenting plans. In particular, it challenges the findings of McIntosh, Smyth and Kelaher (2010) on the relationships between overnight care patterns and psycho-emotional development in infants and young children.

The care of very young children after parental separation.

McIntosh J
InPsych: the bulletin of the Australian Psychological Society v. 36 no. 4 Aug 2014
Written for practising psychologists, this article summarises the research literature on the care arrangements of very young children after parental separation. It also provides a decision-making framework for supporting overnight care decisions for young children of separated parents. The article stresses that no amount of research or legislation will automatically produce the right parenting plan for the individual child - responsive, individualised and well integrated decision making remains the foundation for developmentally sound post-separation parenting arrangements.

Parental separation and overnight care of young children. Part 2, Putting theory into practice.

McIntosh J, Pruett M and Kelly J
Family Court Review v. 52 no. 2 Apr 2014: 256-262
This article is a companion piece to 'Parental separation and overnight care of young children, Part I, Consensus through theoretical and empirical integration,' which examined debates on the overnight care for infants of separated parents. This companion article provides guidance on decision making about infant overnight care, with a set of clinical assumptions and a related chart of practical considerations.

Parental separation and overnight care of young children. Part I, Consensus through theoretical and empirical integration.

Pruett M, McIntosh J and Kelly J
Family Court Review v. 52 no. 2 Apr 2014: 241-256
This article looks at the debates on the overnight care of young children of separated parents. It reviews the origins of the controversies relating to attachment and parental involvement, and identifies the points of consensus on overnight care.

Post-separation parenting arrangements involving minimal time with one parent.

Kaspiew R, De Maio J, Qu L and Deblaquiere J
Hayes, Alan, ed. Higgins, Daryl J., ed. Families, policy and the law : selected essays on contemporary issues for Australia. Melbourne, Vic. : Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2014. 9781922038487: 225-234
The 2006 Family Law reforms introduced the principles of equal shared parental responsibility and a children's right to a meaningful relationship with each parent. However, there are still post-separation parenting arrangements involving only minimal time with one parent. This chapter examines the characteristics of these families, their care-time arrangements, and the mediation or court processes used to come to these arrangements. Findings are taken from recent research from the Coordinated Family Dispute Resolution (CFDR) pilot evaluation study and the Longitudinal Study of Separated Families.

When mothers stay : adjusting to loss after relocation disputes.

Parkinson P and Cashmore J
Family Law Quarterly v. 47 no. 1 Spring 2013: 65-96
This article explores the experiences of mothers after an unsuccessful relocation dispute in Australia. Fifteen women were interviewed three times over a 4-5 year period after they had unsuccessfully applied to relocate, regarding issues such as coping and adjusting, accepting the decision, and the relationship of the children with their father. Four factors seemed to have made the most difference in terms of being able to adjust - or not - to the adverse outcome: the degree of control they were able to exercise over their own future; their recognition that the children benefited from a close relationship with their father; the father's degree of involvement with, and responsibility for, the children; and the level of toxicity in the father-mother relationship. The implications for improving decision-making in relocation cases is also discussed. The findings are part of a broader longitudinal study of the outcomes of relocation disputes.

Parents' experiences of family dispute resolution and family law services in Australia following shared parenting reform : recent qualitative findings.

Carson R, Fehlberg B and Millward C
Child and Family Law Quarterly v. 25 no. 4 2013: 406-424
This article explores how family dispute resolution (FDR) is used and experienced by parents separating in Australia. It draws on interviews with 60 parents in Victoria, interviewed annually from 2009 to 2011 regarding their parenting and financial arrangements and what services they consulted when making or changing these arrangements. These services include FDR and family law services.

Post-separation parenting and financial arrangements over time : recent qualitative findings.

Fehlberg B and Millward C
Family Matters no. 92 2013: 29-40
Previous research has indicated that there tends to be 'maternal drift' from shared parenting time back towards primary mother care in the few years after parental separation. This article explores this issue further. It presents findings from a qualitative study in Victoria, conducted from 2009 to 2011, that examined the links over time between parenting arrangements and financial arrangements - in particular, whether mothers and children suffered financial disadvantage if time sharing reverted to primary mother care. Sixty parents were interviewed once a year over three years, with a sample of 22 children also interviewed in the final year. Key themes from the data include the importance of having cooperative, flexible and child-focused parenting relationships, regardless of the parenting time split; the ongoing role of mothers as the main caregivers and decision-makers for children; fathers' satisfaction with shared time; the often divisive role played by new partners; and the negative effects of family violence when perpetrators continued to exercise control through parenting arrangements.

The effects of co-parenting relationships with ex-spouses on couples in step-families.

Cartwright C and Gibson K
Family Matters no. 92 2013: 18-28
This article explores shared-parenting relationships after a former spouse has repartnered. It presents findings from interviews with 16 couples, recruited from the Couples in Repartnered (Step-) Families study in New Zealand. The couples discussed themes of co-parenting issues with former spouses, stresses on the new stepfamily, and conflict over parenting, flexible arrangements, and child support.

Fathers & Fathering in Contemporary Contexts: 2012 Research Conference : May 23-24, 2012.

National Center for Family and Marriage Research (U.S.)
Bowling Green, OH : National Center for Family & Marriage Research, Bowling Green State University, 2013
This website collates presentation slides and abstracts, summary reports, and presenter information from the 2002 research conference 'Fathers & Fathering in Contemporary Contexts.'

Shared-time parenting : an evidence based matrix for evaluating risk.

McIntosh J and Smyth B
Kuehnle, Kathryn, ed. Drozd, Leslie, ed. Parenting plan evaluations : applied research for the family court. New York : Oxford University Press, 2012. 9780199754021: 155-187
Shared-time parenting - or joint custody - has grown in use for parenting arrangements following divorce or separation. This chapter reviews issues of risk in this arrangement and presents a matrix for understanding the three dimensions of risk - pragmatic resources, parenting and relationship resources, and the child's developmental resources. Sections include: defining risk in the context of shared-time parenting; interpreting the empirical literature on shared parenting and risk; recent Australian and international research considering risk; and future research.

A qualitative synthesis of children's participation in custody disputes.

Mildon R and Devine B
Research on Social Work Practice v. 22 no. 4 Jul 2012: 400-409
This article identifies what is known about children's views and involvement in custody and access decision-making in family law proceedings. It provides a synthesis of qualitative studies from the last studies in Australia and overseas, addressing issues such as first learning that their parents were separating, concerns about separation, adjustment to separation, sources of informal and professional support, experiences of parenting plans, participation in decision-making about residence and contact arrangements, experiences of professionals and child representatives, and judicial interviews. The studies indicate that children generally want to be engaged in the decision-making process regarding custody and access, even if they are not making the final decisions.
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