Examining the variations in and relations between nonresidential fathers’ financial contributions to and involvement with their children following divorce

Date

2021-08-11

Authors

DeAnda, Jacqueline S.

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Abstract

Divorce and subsequent changes in family structure can have far-reaching consequences for children. As a family’s total resources become split between two households, children are at increased risk for experiencing challenges related to reductions in financial support, as well as inconsistent emotional availability from their parents. In the final divorce decree, each parent has an (informal or formal) understanding of the financial support the nonresidential parent, who is most commonly the father, will provide to their former spouse to offset the costs of childrearing (i.e., child support), as well as the amount of time they will spend with their children (i.e., “parenting time”; visitation) on a regular basis. Unfortunately, research shows that some nonresidential fathers face challenges providing the financial and emotional support that help their children succeed long-term. Using monthly surveys from a sample of divorced mothers with primary residential custody, I first aim to describe the average trends in divorced nonresidential fathers’ child support and parenting time in the first two years following divorce-filing. My second aim is to investigate the longitudinal bidirectional associations between divorced nonresidential fathers’ child support compliance and parenting time to determine if changes in one form of fathers’ support are consistently associated with changes in the other. Results broadly indicated higher rates of child support compliance and parenting time than previously reported, as well overall stability over time. Findings also suggested that child support may be related to fathers’ abilities to pay support, while parenting time may be related to their abilities and willingness to stay involved. Finally, results largely demonstrated no reciprocal relationship between divorced nonresidential fathers’ child support and parenting time. The present study suggests that divorced nonresidential fathers’ increased contributions of child support may not lead to greater parenting time, nor will facilitating more parenting time necessarily lead fathers to contribute more financially in the long run. Child support and parenting time appear to be connected but distinguishable forms of support divorced nonresidential fathers provide to their children.

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