In Australia, around 21,000 divorces involving children occur annually. Separation and divorce can be an emotionally exhausting and difficult time, something which is recognised by the Family Court of Australia, which provides resources to assist people through the process.
Very little research has looked at “contented” separated parents’ experiences, so much of the negative outcomes for children are not based on positive post-separation parenting relationships.
Different possible arrangements.
There are many ways separated parents arrange their living, and new terms are emerging to describe non-traditional arrangements. One such arrangement is “birdnesting” in which there’s a “family home” and a secondary home: the parents move between homes, with the children always remaining in the family home.
‘Birdnesting’ is dependent on financial resources though, and participants in our soon-to-be-published study into post-divorce relationships reported the choices about living arrangements were dependent on a range of factors such as work and educational requirements, and financial resources.
For most of the parents in our study, children split their time between two homes in a 50/50 arrangement across a fortnight. For some people, this meant “one week on, one week off” whereas other children moved from one parental home to the other mid-week.
We ask women when they knew it was time for a divorce:
Depending on the age and activities of the children, participants described being increasingly flexible in relation to the arrangement of care practices. As children age, their needs change. School holidays produce opportunities to be more flexible. New sporting or leisure activities out of school hours may require adjustments to existing arrangements to allow for travel.
For younger children, having their favourite toys with them in either parents’ homes was important so parents talked about always packing a bag with their favourite things to go across households.