Child outcomes after parental separation: variations by contact and court involvement
Maintaining contact with children following a divorce can be quite challenging for parents due to things like schedules and conflict. This report presents findings from the Millennium Cohort Study and focuses on whether contact between a child and a non-resident parent after separation is associated with child well-being.
The report describes variations in contact between children and non-resident parents, and use of court for settling contact or financial arrangements. Findings indicate children of continuously married parents tended to have the best outcomes at age 11, followed by children of parents who were cohabiting at the time of birth and remained together. Children of separated parents showed the worst outcomes. However, among children of separated parents, the results suggest that more contact with the non-resident parent was associated with better outcomes for children at age 11.
Higher levels and quality of contact with the non-resident parent could indicate that, following separation, children continue to have a stable (and possibly good) continued relationship with the non-resident parent and that the separated parents are more likely to collaborate and co-parent – which in turn could positively affect children’s well-being and adjustment post separation.
Conversely, experiencing court involvement could indicate that parents have experienced disagreements during the separation and possibly also during the post-separation phases, which could be negatively associated with children’s emotional well-being and behaviours.