Divorced parenting presents the former spouses with all manner of challenges that intact couples do not have to face. One of the most significant is that after a divorce, both former spouses must remember that in their dealings with each other, both of them are still equally the parents of their children.
Today, courts are very open to custody arrangements that cooperative parents negotiate, but if custody is disputed, very often the mother ends up as the custodial parent receiving child support and the father becomes the noncustodial parent paying it, and he visits his children under the terms and conditions of a schedule. This routine, though admittedly not perfect, permits both parents to be actively involved in the lives of their children.
However, what frequently happens is that the noncustodial father, even one who demonstrates good faith with prompt payment of child support, slowly drifts out the lives of his children. Moreover, the divorced father who remarries and has a second family with a new wife may move toward the vanishing point in the lives of his children from earlier marriage. When Dad drifts from the picture — for example, missing promised outings with his children or not showing up for school events — children frequently blame themselves.
Judges, social workers, family counselors, custody evaluators — all stress the need for both mother and father to be active parents of their children, who suffer terribly in the divorce of their parents and who frequently fantasize about their reunification.
Among the many reason to make a heroic effort to avoid a divorce war is that when the marriage is over, divorce parents must still work together to be good parents. By the same token, former spouses who continue the war after the peace treaty has been signed — that is, those who continue to fight with their former spouses about, for example, returning the children a few minutes late — make effective parenting very difficult.
Admittedly, divorce parenting is difficult. The noncustodial father is not physically present much of the time and thus he misses many of his children’s best moments because they happen spontaneously. And the custodial mother may become overburdened because she and she alone is with them all the time. However, this actually underscores the truth of divorced parenting: both parents are still equally the parents of their children.