PARENT EDUCATION: Non-custodial Parenting

By Don Shar, NCC

Child Custody Agreement

Are you or is someone you know in a non-custodial parenting situation?

Because of divorce and other social issues, about half of children now reside in homes with only one of their biological parents. At least initially, most non-resident parents understand that they continue to be important in the lives of their children. Continued contact supports the well-being of the parent and children. This is also a belief held by society.  The family court system attempts to encourage reasonable continuity of the non-resident parent/child relationship by producing custodial agreements which help provide adequate structure to facilitate this parent-child relationship.

However, even with this legal and social support many parents find it difficult to continue regular and frequent contact with their children. Roughly 50% of children in single-parent homes have little to no contact with their fathers, and 25% have contact only once weekly.

Following a divorce or separation, the non-resident parent is faced with a significant change in their parenting situation. Being able to redefine their parenting expectations and adapt to this new situation allows them to continue in this important role. Sometimes, this can be too much of a challenge and they stop trying – an unfortunate outcome for the child and both of his or her parents.

Challenges and strategies for Non-resident/non-custodial parenting:

• Conflict with the other parent—Even with carefully crafted custody agreements, continued serious conflict with the other parent generates significant hurdles in time spent with children. Worst case, children can be used as tools of manipulation in these situations. Continuing or creating a respectful and cooperative co-parenting relationship is important.

• Time and scheduling issues—For the non-resident parent, the time spent with children becomes limited and structured, and incidental interactions may be limited. This can place pressure on the parent who is concerned with making each “visit” meaningful. Travel to get and return children can be significant and costly. Finding ways of cutting the pressure and allowing comfortable interaction increases the likelihood of regular contact.

• Changes in the nature of parenting—Their time with their child is now often referred to as “visitation”, and the non-resident parent may view themselves as less important than the resident parent. They may question their parental worth and become discouraged. Discovering new ways of staying connected and influential in the lives of their children allows them to feel relevant. This process requires creativity and flexibility.

non-custodial parentingSuccessfully meeting these challenges can result in the non-resident parents deciding to stay connected and relevant their children. This outcome is likely beneficial to the child and to both parents. Coming up with a satisfactory arrangement to remain significant in the child’s life is extremely important, sometimes very difficult, and always worth the effort.

If you are faced with challenges in parenting, in any situation, our counselors are here to help.  For more information call Anchorpoint today at 412-366-1300. Counseling, parent coaching, support group therapy, and more are available. We will connect you with someone who can help.

You may also be interested in reading Co-Parenting During High-Conflict Divorce.