A new study, Problematic contact after separation and divorce? (pdf), from Gingerbread and the University of Oxford challenges the perception that single parents commonly obstruct contact between children and their other parent. However, it reveals the extent to which parents – most of whom do not involve the family courts in their disputes - struggle with contact issues, and want more help. No single ingredient was held responsible for making contact work or not work. It was the attitudes, actions and interactions of all family members that were determinative. Making contact work required the commitment of both adults and children.
The survey of 559 separated parents found;
Most children do have contact with their ‘non-resident’ parent (71% according to resident parents, 85% according to non-resident parents). Parents (both resident and non-resident) often want there to be more contact.
But few families find contact straightforward: even where the child does see their other parent, around 7 in 10 parents report problems since the separation (71% of resident and 68% of non-resident parents).
A minority of non-resident parents (most of whom are fathers) said their contact had been stopped (13% said it had happened quite a lot). The resident parents (generally mothers) who had stopped contact often said this was because of a safety concern (36%) or because of the child’s feelings about contact (29%).
Many resident parents had been worried at some time about the quality of the other parent’s care during contact visits (24% had worries about some aspect of care and 11% had concerns about serious welfare issues such as substance abuse). A similar level of concern about the resident parent’s care was reported by non-resident parents – 23% had worries and 9% had concerns about serious issues).
The vast majority of separated parents (more than 90%) do not go to court over contact. The research shows clearly that these families are not problem-free – although many of them are managing most of the time, often with the help of family, parents wanted more support.