University of Florida

Fathering When Apart

Children can face many changes when their parents separate or divorce. One of the most difficult changes can happen when a child stops living with both parents. In the United States, about half of children will live apart from their fathers because of separation. Additionally, mothers are more likely to be awarded physical custody of children than fathers.  

Involvement After Separation

Although fathers may not spend as much time with their children as they did before separation, they can still spend quality time with their children. Having regular contact with your child and making scheduled visits helps your child set expectations and look forward to spending time with you. It’s important to make a schedule that you can keep; knowing your child’s routine will make it easier to arrange these visits.

Show interest in your children’s school-related and extracurricular activities by keeping up with their school progress and having regular conversations about their activities. Doing so lets children know that the things they do when you’re apart are important, and being engaged also shows them you care about all aspects of their lives.

Don’t feel that your child’s time with you always has to be a “vacation” filled with entertaining activities, such as trips to zoos and amusement parks. Not only will this set expensive and exhausting expectations, these types of visits don’t allow you to take part in your child’s everyday activities.


It’s important for mothers and fathers to reduce conflict between them, as their co-parenting relationship is an important factor in a father’s involvement. Although parents may harbor hard feelings towards each other after a separation, they shouldn’t allow these feelings to interfere with the relationships they have with their children. You should also try to minimize conflict related to feelings about new romantic relationships you or your child’s mother may develop. Instead, co-parents should focus on their child’s well-being.

Children who spend time in two different homes with different parenting styles, responsibilities, and rewards may be confused, so co-parents should also coordinate parenting strategies. Communicating with your child’s mother about parenting and child-related issues can help create consistency in both homes. 

Parenting when you don’t live with your child may seem difficult, but noncustodial fathers can still be successful by being patient, understanding, and involved in their child’s everyday life.

Adapted and excerpted from:

K. Gouin, S. Smith, G. D. Evans, D. F. Perkins, “Parenting When Apart: Tips for Non-resident Fathers” (FCS2139), UF/IFAS Family Youth and Community Sciences Department (rev. 02/2007).

S. Smith, “Co-parenting and Father Involvement” (FAR0074), UF/IFAS Family Youth and Community Sciences Department (rev. 03/2012).

C. Weitsman and D. Converse, “Father Involvement after Divorce” (FAR4002), UF/IFAS Family Youth and Community Sciences Department (rev. 03/2012).

father and child

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