Professor Lawrie Moloney is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Family Studies and an Adjunct Professor in the School of Public Health at La Trobe University. Here he talks about post-separation Parent-child relationships and parenting time. It touches on some fundamental ways in which the courts presently determine who children live with and who they spend time in parenting disputes.
Regardless of the pathway used, discussions, negotiations and decisions about parenting after separation often focus on the amount of time children will spend with each parent. This is perhaps understandable. We know for example that after separation, many children grieve the loss of having daily interactions with a parent. But for children who continue to see both their separated parents, researchers have found no strong links between those children’s wellbeing and quantities of time they spend with each parent.
At first glance, this might appear to be an unexpected finding. It might seem logical that if many children grieve the loss of daily interactions with both parents, the best outcome would be to attempt to maximise the available time each child can spend with each parent. But this is not what normally happens. AIFS research has found that less than 10% of Australian children from separated families experience this arrangement, while only about 20% of children in total spend more than a third of their time with each parent. When parents separate, the majority of Australian children continue to remain mainly in the care of one parent (usually their mothers).
In summary, the fact that children who spend considerably more time in the care of one of their parents appear to be functioning just well as children whose care time arrangements are more evenly spread between both parents, suggests that time may not be the most important factor when it comes to their wellbeing. From the child’s point of view, it is likely that knowing that he or she continues to be loved and accepted by both parents will almost certainly trump the impact of such differences – knowing that whatever other difficulties exist, both parents remain united in their wish to do the best they can as parents.