Continuing to share parenting with a former spouse following divorce, commonly referred to as coparenting, is rapidly becoming a favored custody choice of many families, professionals, and family court systems, affecting the lives of millions of individuals each year. In spite of its rapidly growing popularity, there is still much we do not understand about the nature of the coparenting relationship at the heart of this new parenting arrangement. What we do know is that developing a coparenting relationship that is healthy for all family members is difficult has a profound influence on the well-being of mothers, fathers, and children of divorce, but especially on the well-being of children. Among the many ways a child may be impacted negatively by divorce, research has shown that a negative and conflicted coparent relationship stands alone in its power to do harm to children. It is considered to be the root cause of many adjustment difficulties, producing predictable, direct, and far-reaching consequences throughout the remainder of children's lives. By contrast, a cooperative and supportive relationship between former spouses can minimize divorce's potential harm to children.
Using Giorgi's descriptive phenomenological approach, this study seeks to ground our knowledge about parenting with a former spouse in a deep understanding of the experiential meaning of this phenomenon for mothers in their everyday lived worlds. The study explores the experiences of nine mothers who are coparenting with their former spouses. In-depth interviews were designed to draw out pre-reflective descriptions of their everyday experiences with regard to this phenomenon. Analysis of the mothers' naïve descriptions incorporated Giorgi's phenomenological principles, his procedural guidelines, and an incorporated phenomenological research process of my own that evolved during the analysis. The analysis revealed an everyday world characterized by inescapable and relentless threats to mothers' emotional and psychological equilibrium stemming directly from their experiences as coparents. In addition to revealing this unity of experience, the analysis also uncovered individual constituents of meaning and explored each of them at length. The meanings discovered in this study can benefit parents, professionals, and indeed all who are interested in the well-being of children and parents.