Study reveals tough transition for separated dads

25 April 2012

Fathers who separate from their wives or partners face a tough transition which involves increased risk of unemployment, absence from work through sickness and declining mental health, according to a new survey conducted for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood.

The Fathers’ Journey, a survey of 295 separating and recently separated dads by the Fatherhood Institute and Families Need Fathers, found that two-fifths (41%) had changed their working patterns in the year before separation, and just over half (53%) in the year following.

Overall, 11% of the fathers who responded to the employment questions (and most did so) became unemployed or were signed off sick in the pre-separation year, and 22% in the year after.

Those reporting changes in the year pre-separation were most likely to report moving to a different employer (46%), increased working hours (30%) and changing position within the same company (24%). Changes in the post-separation year were most likely to involve moving to a different employer (34%), becoming unemployed (33%) and being signed off work due to illness (19%).

Three-fifths of survey respondents (61%) said their mental health had worsened during the post-separation year, and 54% in the year before separation. Half (49%) said their relationship with their children was weaker in the year after separation (and 19% in the year before) – although interestingly, 35% said their relationship had improved post-separation (and 29% in the year before).

The survey suggests that a considerable proportion of separating and separated fathers seek help on a range of issues, but many do not look for or find the help they need – for example 71% of respondents did not seek employment advice from anyone in the year before separation, and only 54% had approached a solicitor on any topic.

David Lammy MP, Chair of the Fatherhood APPG (pictured) said: “These are very worrying figures. They show the real need for public services to offer relationship support for all families, when times are good and when times are more difficult. The hidden suffering revealed by this report should not be ignored.”

Ken Sanderson, chief executive of Families Need Fathers, commented, “The results of this survey should be a wakeup call for employers and the Government that much more needs to be done to ensure fathers receive the support they need when family breakdown occurs. It is clear that many fathers require and seek out support, and that leaving them to ‘suffer in silence’ has not only a terrible human cost, but also places a heavy strain on their employers.

“The first signs that a father is really struggling to cope may be found in the workplace. It is therefore crucial for companies to examine what they could do to better support staff going through separation or divorce, and for employers to be included in the Government’s revamp of support services for separating families.”

Adrienne Burgess, joint chief executive of the Fatherhood Institute, said: “These survey results offer a glimpse of the challenges separating and separated fathers face as they deal with their emotional difficulties and try to juggle their earning and caring responsibilities. The survey also reveals the massive costs of this – not only to the men and their families, but to their employers and to the State. There’s a myth that men don’t ask for help, and this survey shows that’s not the case. We need to do more to explore how dads access services, and what barriers may be preventing their wider use of them.”

Download the report: The Fathers’ Journey Report


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  • andrew says:

    I find statistics somewhat confusing. I have read in a Daily Telegraph article that one in three children dont live with their father. I find this statistic very disturbing.
    It suggests to me that more longer term studies need to be done. Did the survey only look at the year prior to separation and the one following?
    Mental health and employment issues don’t surprise me.
    There is of course a very simple solution. Give Dad’s equality of parenting. In other words show Dad’s respect for the great job they do.

    • Fatherhood Institute says:

      We very much hope that this study will help us kick up some longer-term research on the effects of separation – so watch this space.

  • Martin says:

    I worked on a project supporting separated or separating parents and a suprising number of dads did, usually via someone else, come forward for help. Within that group a significant amount did ask to, or would prefer to see a male adviser. So, I think the comments from Adrienne are right in that Men will accept help, but they do need a distinctive approach and we need to be a bit snarter in how we market our support and make it meaningful to their needs. I do remember being pleasantly suprised at how supportive some of the employers were at giving some of these dads time off for our appointments.

    I had heard a statistic some time ago that saldy contact with their children drifts away to none from up to one third of separated dads – but we often jump to conclusions as to why this happens.

    • William A G Tapley says:

      I can tell you why it happens:

      1) malicious mothers who make life impossible for the father
      2) courts that refuse to enforce their own contact orders – mothers are completely above punishment and the courts operate a two-tier system.. in other words, gender apartheid – and yes, it is that bad.
      3) it’s very easy for a mother to obtain a non-molestation order or similar, preventing the dad from coming anywhere near his kids
      4) it’s very easy for a mother to have a father arrested on any grounds and pay no consequences for malicious acts
      5) a father who has been removed from the family home then has to find another home whilst maintaining the original home, whilst suffering great emotional and mental distress which causes a drop in productivity (especially noticeable in the self-employed) leading to less income…and the downward spiral goes on.
      6) the CSA – woeful and pitted against fathers – their attitude towards fathers is disgraceful. The civil servants and politicians responsible for this atrocity of an organisation should be named and shamed. CMEC is just a cosmetic re-hash of the same appalling set-up.
      7) when they system actively works against fathers, you get trapped in a true kafkaesque nightmare, the only exit from which is to walk away from your kids and try and start life again elsewhere. You’ll always be haunted by losing your children and from being persecuted by the state.

      It’s shocking what actually happens. The family law industry (yes, multi-million pound industry) is geared towards entrenching and prolonging problems rather than solving them (there’s less money in solutions, isn’t there) and dads are second-class citizens in a family court. The Law needs massive change. And I would bin every judge over 55 years old. Too many are stuck in the past and won’t change.

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