Co-parenting after divorce increases sharply in Belgium

Co-parenting after divorce is increasing in Belgium, with the country ranking above the European average, according to a study by the University of Antwerp (UA).

“A week-by-week arrangement after a divorce is more common here than in other countries,” says UA professor Dimitri Mortelmans. “The arrangement whereby children alternately stay with each of the parents has gained great popularity in Belgium in recent decades.”

Co-parenting has increased significantly in Belgium since 1995, from being the case for 6.5 per cent of divorced couples to 30.4 per cent in 2023. The European average is 21.1 per cent. “The arrangement is not yet the absolute norm,” says Elke Claessens of UA, because 53.9 per cent of children with divorced parents live either exclusively or primarily with the mother.

"When it comes to the child's residence arrangement, Belgium is a unique case"

On the other hand, the researchers see that 6.3 per cent live exclusively and 10.3 per cent mainly with the father. These figures are much lower than the European average. Parents with joint custody agreements are much more likely to have higher education levels. “Despite the legal framework, the phenomenon is not completely disconnected from a stronger educational position,” says Claessens.

The researchers say the rise is related to legislation. “When it comes to the child's residence arrangement, Belgium is a unique case,” says Mortelmans. “Since 2006, it has been one of the only European countries where judges are required to consider evenly distributed residence as the first option if the parents fail to reach consensus on the residence arrangement.”

There has long been a debate about the usefulness of a week-by-week arrangement, but studies show that co-parenting benefits both children and parents. The highest share of residence co-parenting, where the child lives with one of the parents between one- and two-thirds of the time, is in Sweden, where 56 per cent of children from separated households live alternately with each parent. Denmark is in second place with 38 per cent and France at 31.4 per cent.



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