For parents, separating or getting divorced involves important considerations that do not apply outside of the parenting context. While New Jersey law requires certain decisions (such as those regarding visitation and parenting time) to be made in the “best interests” of the couple’s children, ideally, all decisions should be made with the children’s immediate and long-term needs in mind, including parental involvement.
For most families, this means finding ways for both parents to continue to play a meaningful role in their children’s lives. University studies have shown that having both parents actively involved in a child’s life can provide significant social, psychological, and health benefits, and the stability of having a relationship with both parents can provide greater opportunities for children to find their own paths to success.
In recent years, we have also seen more evidence that co-parenting can provide substantial benefits as well. Regardless of what structure might be best for any particular family, when going through a separation or divorce, the importance of the parental relationship to early childhood development should remain top of mind.
The Father’s Influence Post-Separation or Divorce
Traditionally, when parents have chosen not to stay together, the mother has most often been the parent to take on primary (if not sole) responsibility for raising the couple’s children. As a result, studies focused in this area have typically examined the role of the father-child relationship (or lack thereof) on children’s physical and psychological well-being. According to studies published in the Journal of Family Psychology and Science Daily:
- Daughters who report a relationship with their father characterized by “rejection, chaos, and coercion” are “more sensitive to emotional changes” and experience increased stress when discussing problems with friends.
- Daughters who report a relationship with their father characterized by “warmth, autonomy, support, and structure” experience less stress overall and are more comfortable discussing problems with friends.
- “[N]onresident father involvement in a child’s life is positively associated with lower food insecurity in both early and middle childhood.”
Structuring Parental Relationships Post-Separation or Divorce
In today’s world, for couples seeking to structure divorce settlements and terms of separation that allow both parents to maintain an active role in their children’s lives, there are several options available. This is true with regard to both: (i) the methods for achieving an amicable resolution, and (ii) the ways that parents can agree to structure their post-separation or post-divorce lives. For parents who are willing to work together, the available methods for establishing visitation and parenting time that meet everyone’s needs include:
- Informal negotiation in a private setting with the help of attorneys who understand the benefits of maintaining strong parental relationships.
- Collaborative divorce, which involves using a structured process and outside professionals (such as family counselors and social workers) as necessary to achieve a positive outcome.
- Mediation of any specific issues with respect to which the parents are having difficulty coming to terms. A mediator helps parents explore their options, but does not make decisions like a judge would in court.
With regard to the ways that parents can agree to structure their post-separation or post-divorce lives for the benefit of their children, the list of options is almost endless. The more parents structure around involvement, the better the result they can obtain. Is co-parenting a workable option in your situation? How much flexibility do you have with regard to scheduling? Will you and your children’s other parent be able to make decisions mutually with your children’s best interests in mind? These are the types of questions that will help guide you toward the solution that best fits your unique personal and family circumstances.
Contact a New Jersey Family Law Attorney at MR. Men’s Rights Divorce & Family LawTM of New Jersey by Schultz & Associates, LLC
If you would like more information about the options that are available for structuring visitation and parenting time in a separation or divorce, we encourage you to contact us for a confidential consultation. To speak with a family law attorney at MR. Men’s Rights Divorce & Family LawTM of New Jersey by Schultz & Associates, LLC, please call (201) 880-9770 or get in touch online today.