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Journal Issue: Children and Divorce Volume 4 Number 1 Spring/Summer 1994

The Role of the Father After Divorce
Ross A. Thompson


Fathers figure prominently in a child's postdivorce life whether they are involved or disinterested, but concerns about inadequate child support, non-custodial fathers who fail to visit, and the economic plight of single mothers have together raised policy questions about how better to enfranchise fathers with the rights and responsibilities of parenting and ensure them a continuing and meaningful role in the lives of their offspring. This article focuses on obstacles and avenues to ensuring a meaningful postdivorce parenting role for fathers by examining the effects on them of custody standards, visitation policies, child support guidelines and their enforcement, and the other economic arrangements surrounding contemporary divorce. In the end, public policies that foster the child's unconflicted relationships with each parent in the context of reliable and adequate economic support will require new ways of structuring relations between ex-spouses in the interests of offspring (for example, new approaches to custody and visitation), non-adversarial modes of assisted dispute resolution to accommodate postdivorce changes in family life, child support policies which guarantee that a child's economic needs will be met when parents are unable to provide adequately (and that assist parents who are unable to provide), and that recognize and ensure both the relational and the economic contributions of each parent to a child's well-being.