Becoming a non-resident father: Marginalised through distress, disadvantage and disempowerment

Dominic Violi, Peter Lewis, Cannas Kwok, Nathan J. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Issue Addressed: Becoming a non-resident father through divorce is stressful and this often results in compromised mental health and well-being. Non-resident fathers' mental well-being has been measured at very low levels which may require clinical treatment, especially when correlated with child access and family court issues. A United Nations report highlighted how non-resident fathers may be marginalised, but to date, limited literature considers the lives of non-resident fathers from their own perspective and reflecting their own voice and it has been claimed that as fathers are often absent from parenting research, this absence, they are not heard. The aim of this paper was to identify how non-resident fathers' interactions with legal and welfare services and ex-partners may result in their marginalisation and affect their mental health. Methods: In-depth interviews with open-ended questions were conducted with 19 non-resident fathers, both long term, newly divorced or in the divorce process, so as to capture a long range view of their experiences. Thematic Analysis was used for data analysis and the generation of the themes. Results: Three themes emerged from the data: (1) Becoming a non-resident father with two sub themes; (2) Being in a state of distress, with three sub-themes and (3) Managing distress and seeking help, with two sub-themes. Participants reported a lack of agency, lack of power in decision making and a lack of social and financial resources all contributing to the deterioration in their self-reported experiences of mental health. This impact was highlighted by the number of participants who undertook counselling or psychological assistance to deal with their perceived marginalisation, feeling of invisibility and disempowerment. Conclusions: The implications of marginalisation for non-resident fathers' mental health, as outlined by the participants, are discussed regarding the impact of becoming a non-resident father, legal aspects, welfare service experiences and relationship with ex-partner. The chronic stress experienced by non-resident fathers who often find themselves in a situation which is difficult to resolve without major compromises to their desired outcomes must be recognised. So What: One means of achieving better mental health for non-resident fathers is to address the impact of marginalisation and lack of agency and that court processes are resolved swiftly with a view to increasing non-resident father's agency in post-divorce decision making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)714-722
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Promotion Journal of Australia
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


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