SALINA, KAN. -- The type of relationship a woman has with her ex-partner is a factor in how the couple shares custody of children, according to a Kansas State University expert on postdivorce and co-parenting relationships.
In a study of divorced or separated mothers sharing physical custody of their children with their former partners, Mindy Markham, assistant professor of family studies and human services on the university's Salina campus, identified three patterns of co-parenting -- continuously contentious, always amicable and bad to better -- as well as negative and positive factors that influenced the mothers' co-parenting relationships.
Markham's study involved 20 predominately white, well-educated women between the ages of 26 to 49 who were divorced or separated from the father of their children. The mothers, from two Midwestern states, shared with their former partners legal and physical custody of the children, who ranged in age from 21 months to 12 years. At the time of the study, the couples had been separated or divorced from six months to 12 years.
"The findings of this study suggest that shared physical custody relationships are dynamic and can vary greatly," Markham said.
Today it is common for both ex-spouses to share legal and physical custody of children after divorcing. But Markham said few studies have looked at the process of co-parenting, so little is known about how divorced parents negotiate the co-parenting process.
In Markham's study, nine mothers had continuously contentious co-parenting relationships with their ex-partners from the time of separation to the present. The negative factors that contributed to this rocky relationship included the mother's perception of her ex's parenting abilities; financial concerns, including the ex not having a job or not paying child support; control or abuse by the ex-partner; and the inability of the ex to separate marital -- or personal -- issues from
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Kansas State University