What Services Do Separated and Divorced Fathers Need?

Friday Nov 28, 2008

Much of the public dialogue around issues facing separated and divorced fathers tends to focus on legal issues such as custody, access and parental alientation as well as advocacy around the pursuit of a rebuttable legal presumption of shared parenting after divorce or separation. (1) However, research shows that there is a sub-population of divorced and separated fathers whose needs - other than legal needs - are not well recognized and who, as a result, may be underserved in services and programs for families.

For example, in 2007, Statistics Canada reported that rates of depression following the loss of a spousal relationship are higher for men than for women. (2)  Other research has shown that high levels of conflict, which affect a minority of separated and divorced couples, are damaging to parent-child relationships and can contribute to the deterioration of father-child relationships after divorce. (3)

At the Father Involvement 2008 conference in Toronto, FIRA's Denise Whitehead, Lynda M. Ashbourne and Linda Hawkins presented a conceptual framework for orienting services to separated and divorced fathers. This framework proposes three domains of service which could support  father-child relationships, fathers' post-divorce parenting, cooperation between fathers and their ex-partners during and after divorce and separation. The three domains are as follows:

  • helping fathers move through de-coupling to post-separation coparenting: mediation, alternative dispute resolution, educational groups, and assistance with parenting plans;

  • meeting fathers' psycho-social needs: support with issues related to stress, grief, emotional and mental health;

  • parenting support: parenting-after-separation groups, fathers-only support groups, activity programs which offer opportunities for father-child interaction and also provide child-friendly play spaces for fathers who may not yet have adequate play spaces in their new residences; and

  • legal supports which help fathers obtain clear and accurate information on their post-separation legal rights and responsibilities while recognizing some of the systemic biases and barriers fathers face in social and legal contexts surrounding divorce and separation

 View the research poster.

Read the text version.


1. Kruk, E. (2008). Child custody, access and parental responsibility. The search for a just and equitable standard. Father Involvement Research Alliance.

2. Rotermann, M. (2007), Marital breakdown and subsequent depression. Statistics Canada.

3. Scott, M.E., Booth, A., King, V., Johnson, D.R. (2007). Postdivorce father-adolescent closeness. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69(5), 1194-1209.