The purpose of this study is to explore how Korean divorced mothers experience parenting after divorce. The data were collected from 17 Korean divorced mothers who were divorced between the years of 2004 and 2009 and were raising at least one minor child. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted between July and September of 2009 in Seoul and its satellite cities in South Korea. Data were analyzed based on the phenomenological data analysis method.
Most of the Korean divorced mothers had difficulties establishing cooperative relationships with the children's fathers, and the fathers' involvement with their children after the divorce was very limited even though most mothers wanted the fathers to voluntarily be involved in their children's lives. Regarding postdivorce parenting agreements including custody, child support, and visitation, most of the mothers decided to raise their children themselves since they believed that they were more appropriate parents compared to the fathers considering the well-being of the children. Out of the 17 mothers, 14 agreed to receive child support from the children's fathers at the time of the divorce. However, only five mothers received child support from the fathers at the time of the interviews. In addition, only the children of nine mothers had contact with their fathers at the time of the interviews.
The 2007 civil law modification that requires Korean divorcing parents to develop parenting agreements prior to divorce might not have much influence on the divorced parents' decision-making process of parenting after the divorce based on the mothers' experiences of this study. Most of the Korean divorced parents did not have many conversations about their anticipated parental roles and parental relationships at the time of the divorce. As a result, most of the divorced parents had lack of consensus on postdivorce parental roles and responsibilities, and they often experienced conflict over the fathers' involvement after the divorce. These mothers' experiences were very similar regardless of when their divorces were finalized, either before or after the 2007 civil law modification. This finding suggests that the divorce policy in Korea needs to help divorced parents understand their new roles and responsibilities after divorce and establish cooperative coparenting relationships.
This study discusses the effectiveness of Korean divorce policy and Korean divorced parents' misunderstandings about postdivorce parental responsibilities and parenting relationships. This unprepared society and underprepared families facing divorce could contribute to a much reduced well-being of children of divorce. This study also discusses the lack of the children's best interest in divorce and the meaning of the father's role after divorce in Korea. The policy implications from the present study are (a) expanding parenting education for divorced parents, (b) improving the child support policy by introducing child support guidelines and enhancing child support collection systems, and (c) increasing social support for needy single-mother families.