Eva Schmalkuche and her five-year-old son Jaxson at home in Chatswood West, Sydney.

Life goes on: Eva Schmalkuche and her son Jaxson. She and her partner split 18 months ago. Photo: Fiona Morris

Recently separated parents are overwhelmingly positive about their children's health and wellbeing but more ambivalent about their own lives, particularly their finances.

Australian Institute of Family Studies researchers interviewed more than 6000 parents who separated between July 2010 and December 2011; 16 per cent of families in Australia are one-parent families.

The survey found most thought their children were in excellent or very good health post-separation. More than 90 per cent were satisfied with their school-age children's wellbeing and thought they were doing as well or better than their peers socially and at school. Four-fifths were satisfied with their relationship with their children.

''The great majority [of children are] found to be faring well on all aspects of wellbeing as assessed from parental reports,'' the report authors said.

They noted older children were often found not to be doing as well as younger children and all suffered when their parents experienced physical or emotional abuse.

The survey revealed more variable rates of satisfaction among recently separated parents with only 45 per cent of parents highly satisfied with life as a whole. Parents from situations where family violence had occurred had lower rates of satisfaction.

While seven in 10 parents were ''highly satisfied'' with their personal safety and physical health, one in three were dissatisfied with their financial situation. ''Parental wellbeing varied quite widely,'' the report authors said. ''Mothers tended to express greater satisfaction than fathers.''

More than two-thirds of parents had experienced financial difficulties since separating - struggling to pay bills on time, being forced to sell assets and borrowing from family and friends. Most were renting and their average household income was $61,400, compared with the national average of $113,200 for all families with dependent children.

Eva Schmalkuche says she is much more relaxed and happy since she separated from her fiance, the father of her son, Jaxson, 18 months ago. ''I'm really happy on a day-to-day basis,'' the Chatswood (Sydney) mother said. ''Everything is easier, it's just me and Jaxson, there are no real complications I'm not aware of.

''My confidence in terms of what life holds has been a little bit damaged. I'm comforted by the fact I'm young, it's not like the world is over.''

Ms Schmalkuche said she noticed Jaxson was anxious and uncertain when she and her former partner were separating but he became a lot more settled once his parents had gone through mediation to resolve parenting arrangements.

''He expects what's coming and he knows,'' Ms Schmalkuche said. ''Everyone says he's a very happy, interactive, confident little boy.''

Ms Schmalkuche works full time and is completing a master's degree. She and Jaxson live with her parents (paying rent). Unlike many separated parents, Ms Schmalkuche doesn't feel under financial stress.

''I'm pretty good at managing money,'' she said. ''I don't have money to burn but I'm able to afford the things I need to afford and have a bit of room to live.''

While one-third of separated parents surveyed said their relationship with their ex-partner was friendly or co-operative, 20 per cent reported physical violence before or during separation and 44 per cent reported emotional abuse.

Mothers were most likely to make decisions by themselves about their child's health, education and sporting or social activities. Both parents equally decided their child's religious or cultural ties.

The average age of separated fathers interviewed was 38 and separated mothers 35. Most parents had one or two children aged between five and 11, with 53 per cent of children spending most nights with their mother. The average separation period was 17 months and only a quarter of separated parents had found new partners.