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Co-Parenting After Divorce: Opportunities and Challenges

Can two people, unable to get along within their intimate relationship, still parent together?

Research suggests that successful co-parenting is still possible after a marriage has ended.

In a Clinical Science Insight, Family Institute Postdoctoral Fellow Catherine K. Buckley, PhD, describes the research-supported ways in which divorced parents can develop strong, cooperative and supportive co-parenting relationships after divorce.

“About half of all American children will experience their parents’ divorce, and 25% will also face divorce in a parent’s second marriage (Copen, Daniels, Vespa, & Mosher, 2012),” writes Dr. Buckley. “While divorce is often stressful for families, a great deal of variability exists in children’s adjustment to divorce. Once important factor linked with child outcomes after divorce is the quality of the divorced couple’s co-parenting relationship. Research demonstrates that parents’ ability to effectively cooperate as co-parents is an important determinant of children’s well-being in divorced families, especially when the children are young (Adamsons & Pasley, 2005; Pruett, 2007).”

In this Clinical Science Insight, Dr. Buckley addresses:

  • The roll of acceptance in figuring out co-parenting relationships: Each parent needs to understand that childcare responsibilities may not be equal, and that he/she cannot control how his/her former partner behaves. Acceptance can lead to a more harmonious and effective relationship.
  • How to develop a quality co-parenting relationship: There are ways divorced parents can improve the quality of their relationships for the sake of their children, including focusing on positive outcomes for their kids, and making lists of mutually agreed upon non-negotiables.
  • What to do if working with a former partner seems impossible: Remember that the primary goal for parents after divorce is establishing a supportive relationship to help children adjust to the changes.
  • How families can get support and resources: Books, family therapy, parent training and meditation can all help families as they learn to co-parent after divorce.

To read Dr. Buckley’s complete Clinical Science Insight, visit our webpage.

The Family Institute’s Clinical Science Insight white papers bring our expertise to you.

As part of our mission of strengthening and healing families from all walks of life through clinical service, education, and research, we are committed to using clinical science to improve the effectiveness of our interventions.

Our faculty and clinical staff have a wealth of expertise in a variety of issues facing families today, from child development and innovative treatments for depression and anxiety, to best parenting practices and the latest research on what works in couples therapy, just to name a few.

Through this initiative we share our knowledge with you.

To learn more about our Clinical Science Insights, visit us at

To learn more about The Family Institute, visit our website.

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