What You Didn't Want to Hear About Post-divorce Conflict


If you are experiencing pre- or post-divorce co-parenting difficulties, following is a summary of frank, research-based information that is reported by Stanford L. Braver in a book entitled “Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths”. While it might be difficult to hear, this information may prove to be of considerable use in a) understanding some of the beliefs and dynamics at issue, and b) for developing a viable plan to address and resolve the conflict.

Information for (noncustodial) divorced dads:

  1. Women are twice as likely as men to file for divorce.
  2. The most frequent reason women cite for wanting a divorce is “gradually growing apart, losing a sense of closeness” with their partner. In other words, there may be nothing in particular that provoked her wish to divorce—just a gradual accumulation of dissatisfaction with the relationship.

  3. On average, women in post divorce situations hold on to their anger longer than tends to be true of men. Given this, your prior spouse may be much angrier than you are.

  4. She may react to things you do as if they were designed as efforts to control her—even if that is patently not the case.

  5. She may genuinely believe “it is in the best interests of the children” for you to stay away so the children aren’t exposed to the bickering that transpires between the two of you; or so the kids won’t have to deal with her distress after she’s been in contact with you.

  6. It may seem that the intent of her actions is to drive home the notion that your presence is not wanted or needed.  

  7. She is likely to restrict or terminate your visitation if you are tardy or negligent in making support payments.

  8. She may be genuinely fearful for her physical safety--even if there is no history of physical violence between you--and seek a restraining order against you.

  9. She may act in ways that appear designed to provoke physical aggression from you. Physical violence often makes its first appearance in a relationship during the process of the divorce.

  10. She may (be encouraged to) allege that you have been abusive towards the children in order to have your access and involvement terminated.

  11. The legal system is most unlikely to provide any sanctions for false allegations brought against you.

Information for (custodial) divorced moms:

If you are a divorced female whose prior spouse is not making his support payments on time, or not making them at all, and/or who has disengaged from his relationships with the children:

  1. Your prior spouse may be feeling that he has been prevented from having meaningful involvement in the lives of his children.
  2. He may be of the view that you (and others) devalue his relationship with the kids.

  3. He may believe that you are acting purposefully to discourage his involvement with the children.

What needs to be heard and appreciated is the following:

  • Ending your spousal relationship IN NO WAY ends your joint obligation to parent your children.
  • Almost without exception, children love both of their biological parents—even if they are angry with one or both of them.  

  • Your children have a right, and a need to be parented by BOTH of their parents.  

  • With very few exceptions, it is NOT in the children’s best interest to have their relationship with either of their parents severed. It is well established that children who are deprived of a relationship with either of their parents are at an increased risk for a wide range of problems.

  • Lingering conflict between the parents LITERALLY damages the self-esteem of the children caught in the middle of the conflict.

  • Parents who are truly concerned with “the best interests of the child” encourage and support the relationship their kids have with the non-custodial parent—even if this can only occur by way of supervised visits.  

  • Ultimately, children will hold anyone to account who treats their biological parent badly, or obstructs their relationship with that parent. 

A plan for action:

  • At a minimum, both parents need to acknowledge that their lingering conflict is much more likely to be self-serving than protecting the best interests of the kids. Good parents don’t use and hurt their children in order to vent their anger or have their own needs met.
  • An agreement to co-parent the children needs to be struck and adopted. Those differences that couldn’t be resolved during the marriage won’t be solved now. Consequently, they must simply be left out of the co-parenting obligations you share. Just as you need not like every business client with whom you work, you can co-parent effectively without having to re-establish a fond regard for your co-parent. Strive for a working relationship that is cordial and polite, and that focuses strictly upon the needs of the kids.  

  • Both parents must support and encourage the relationship the children have with the other parent.


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Stepfamily Foundation of Alberta