Australian Bureau of Statistics data show that following divorce it is mothers who retain day-to-day care of young children
in 96% of cases (ABS 1997). Consequently we have considered custodial parents to be mothers and non-custodial parents to be fathers unless otherwise
In the first year following divorce, divorced mothers and fathers feel more anxious, depressed, rejected and incompetent
(Hetherington, Cox, & Cox 1978). Studies have shown that the grief of non-custodial fathers stems primarily from the loss of their children rather than from the loss of marital identity
(Guttman 1989; Kruk 1994)
so that non-custodial fathers experience divorce in a radically different manner from other men and women
& McMurray (1998) recognised that non-custodial fathers’ grief is disenfranchised because social norms do not permit public acknowledgment of their mourning. The
legitimacy of some fathers’ grief is further diminished by statements that they had not been very involved with their children prior to separation. This sort of comment assumes that non-custodial
fathers’ sense of loss can be accurately measured by the level of involvement with their children while living in an intact family, which is contrary to what Kruk (1994) identified as an important
distinction between fathers’ emotional investment in children and involvement in their daily lives
Divorced dads' complaints include: blocked contact and unenforced parenting orders; "move away" spouses who permit or even
use geography as a method of driving non custodial parents out of their children's lives; acceptance by the courts of false and/or uncorroborated accusations as a basis for denying custody or even
contact between parent and child (Joint Select Committee 1992; Jordan 1996).
The “Disposable Parent Syndrome” is not a disease peculiar to fathers. It is
a human problem, seen frequently in mothers, too, when parental destruction is their
lot. Non- custodial
mothers have all of the same problems as non-custodial fathers, along with society's misinformed opinion. Society considers any women denied custody
of her child to be “unfit” and she must be abusive, neglectful, a drug addict or an alcoholic (Lovorn 1991; West & Kissman 1991; McMurray 1992).
Australian Bureau of Statistics (1997). Family Characteristics.
Australian Bureau of Statistics: Canberra.
After separation, children of all ages were more likely to live with their mother than their father.
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Family Characteristics Survey data showed that 96% of 0-4 years olds, 89% of 5-11 years olds and 82% of 12-17 years olds whose parents had separated were living
with their mother.
Other figures from the Department of Social Security show that nearly one in five or nearly 19% of all
Australian families with dependent children are sole parent households. About 94% are headed by women and 6% by men. See, Pamphlet (January 1996). Help For Sole Parents. Department of Social
Security: Canberra p 2.
Hetherington E., Cox M., & Cox R (1978). The Aftermath of Divorce. In Steven and Mathews
(Editors), Mother-Child, Father-Child Relations. National Association for the Education of Young Children: Washington D. C.
Guttmann J (1989). The Divorced Father: A Review of the Issues and the Research. Journal of Comparative Family Studies. 20(2):
Kruk E (1994). The Disengaged NonCustodial Father: Implications For Social Work Practice with the
Divorced Family. Social Work. 39(1): 15-25
Kruk E (1991a). The Grief Reaction of NonCustodial Fathers Subsequent To Divorce. Men’s Studies Review. 8(2): 17-21
Baker R. J., & McMurray A. M (1998). Contact Fathers’ Loss of School Involvement. Journal of Family Studies. 4(2): 201-214.
The Parliament of The Commonwealth of Australia (November 1992). The Family Law Act 1975. Aspects
of Its Operation and Interpretation. Report of The Joint Select Committee On Certain Aspects of The Operation and Interpretation of The Family Law Act. Australian Government Publishing Services:
Jordan P (November 1996).
The Effects of
Marital Separation On Men: 10 Years On. Research Report No 14, Family Court of Australia: Canberra
Lovorn R (Thursday 3 October 1991). Why Women Join Fathers Rights Groups. Athens Banner Herald:
West B., & Kissman K (1991). Mothers Without Custody: Treatment Issues. Journal of Divorce
& Remarriage. 16: 229–238
McMurray A (1992). Influences On Parent-Child Relationships On Non-Custodial Mothers. Australian
Journal of Marriage and Family. 13(3): 138.
See also, McMurray A., & Blackmore A. M (1992). Influences On Parent-Child Relationships in Non-Custodial Fathers. Australian
Journal of Marriage & Family. 14(3): 151-159
McMurray A (1995). Parenting Without Custody: A Guide For Survival. Harper Collins Publishers: Sydney