University of FloridaSolutions for Your Life

Download PDF
Publication #FAR0074

Co-parenting and Father Involvement1

Suzanna Smith2

About half of all U.S. children will live apart from their fathers some time during their childhood because their parents have divorced or separated. While some nonresidential fathers do not maintain contact with their child, others are able to continue to be a part of the child's life. A very important factor in whether a father remains involved seems to be how the mother and father work out their co-parenting relationship after they split up. Fathers may be involved in decisions about the child, have frequent contact, and be involved in warm and supportive relationships with their children—or they may be fairly distant or not involved at all.

A recent study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family looked at co-parenting relationships between custodial mothers and fathers living apart from their biological children. Using data collected from a national sample of children and custodial mothers, the researchers found that cooperative co-parenting is fairly uncommon: 66% of mothers say that the father has no influence over childrearing and 58% say that they get no help from the father in childrearing (Sobolewski & King, 2005).

These results suggest that "many parents may find it difficult or even impossible to engage in cooperative co-parenting after separation" (Sobolewski & King, 2005, p. 1210). However, when they can cooperate fathers are able to have more frequent contact with their children and a more trusting and supportive relationship, confirming other research that finds father involvement has many positive outcomes for children.

Listening, learning, and living together: it's the science of life. "Family Album" is a co-production of University of Florida IFAS Extension, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, and of WUFT-FM. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website at

To listen to the radio broadcast:


Sobolewski, J. M., & King, V. (2005). The importance of the coparental relationship for nonresident fathers' ties to children. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 1196-1212.



This document is FAR0074, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 361. Published March 2009. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Suzanna Smith, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.