The co-parenting option for single dads | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

YOU’RE a single dad, your marriage might be over—but you want to maintain a strong relationship with your children. The way to do this is to spend as much time with them as you can.

This can be challenging if you live far away from them, but there are many ways to manage this, especially in this age of high technology. (But I will write about technology another time.)

For now, let’s presume you live close to to your ex’s house. The best way you can be guaranteed of having regular contact with your kids is to have joint custody of them.

What is joint custody? In formal terms it refers to having joint legal custody, but not necessarily joint physical custody.

Joint legal custody will allow you to sign documents for your children, such as passport applications and report cards, but access to your kids may be as limited as that of a non-custodial father. You should be aware that this essentially makes your share of legal custody useless, since possession is nine-tenths of the law.

Parenting author Armin Brott strongly recommends you try to get joint physical custody. Check with your own legal advisor what that term accurately means to your ex and her lawyers.

In most cases, it means “frequent and continuing contact,” which includes equally splitting the kids’ expenses, and making decisions and time for the kids.

Sometimes the arrangement may be designed like that of a sole custody mother allowing frequent visitations by the father. Make sure you get the amount of time you deserve to stay close to your children.


Be realistic and reasonable with estimating the time you can really spend with your kids, balanced with your work responsibilities (which you need to support them). Most likely it will be around 30 to 50 percent of the time.

You should never go for more than 50 percent (unless there is a circumstance which makes it imperative) because your children need their mother just as much as they need their father.

Since joint physical and joint legal custody have different meanings for different lawyers and people, Brott likes to use the term “co-parenting” to describe the ideal custody arrangement.

Co-parenting works for everyone, for many reasons:

Parents like it because shared physical custody by former couples allows them to have a better custody arrangement. They tend to fight less and are mostly satisfied with the outcome of their break-up. Parents who opt for co-parenting are less likely than sole custody parents to go back to court to settle their disputes.

Co-parenting fathers like it. Researcher Margaret Little says they “are more likely than non-residential fathers to share in decision-making about their children and to be satisfied with the legal and physical custody arrangements.”

Father-child contact is better. These fathers have better visitation records and keep in touch much more than dads who do not get to spend as much time with their kids.

Children feel more secure. The kids can feel insecure about their lives after they have seen the break-up of their parents. They may feel that they are unloved and their lives are out of control. Their negative feelings can get worse if they perceive that one parent is no longer present (or hardly around) in their lives.


Co-parenting encourages flexibility. It may be a bit confusing for some kids in the early stages, as they begin to do separate activities with one parent at a time. But they soon learn to accept and manage the different ways each parent does things. The children discern that in life, there is more than one right way to do things.

When my kids are with me, they do what I do, and when they are with my ex-wife, they do what she does.

The co-parenting arrangement encourages better child-support payments. Let’s face it, we hear horror stories of how absentee fathers fail to share in the expenses of raising their children. A census found that the majority of men with joint physical custody of their children pay their child-support obligation. It showed that compliance was higher when the amount they paid was adjusted based on their ability to pay, factoring in such issues as unemployment, underemployment or legitimate disability.

Everyone wins. Social policy expert Ross Thompson says it “presents the possibility that each family member can ‘win’ in post-divorce life” instead of insisting that a custody battle identifies who is the winner or loser. Both “mothers and fathers win a significant role in the lives of their offspring and the children win as a consequence.”

Most experts agree that co-parenting is the best option. But there are cases when it should not be implemented because it will simply not work out.

Co-parenting will work best when:

You and your ex live not too far from each other. Although the children may move back and forth between your two homes, they should be able to go to the same school, do the same extracurricular activities and maintain friendships.

Both parents must recognize each other’s value value to the kids. It is important that each parent participates to have his/her own healthy relationship with the children.

Both parents should cooperate. Personal differences should be set aside in the interest of working together. A common set of rules must be agreed on regarding children’s behavior, discipline and parenting style. Accept and respect each other’s choices even if you may not agree completely.

Do not fight in front of the children. Almost everyone hears this piece of advice because it really affects the kids. According to experts, “The single most accurate predictor of children’s long-term adjustment is the level of conflict between the parents.”

The most important thing to remember: You and your ex do not need to like each other to co-parent your kids.

Experts Elizabeth Hickey and Elizabeth Dalton write, “… separate your needs from your child’s … when interacting with your co-parent, focus specifically on your child’s needs.”

More important, “the secret to successful co-parenting is putting the needs of your children ahead of your own.”

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.