Separation and Divorce... but what about the children?

It is a sad fact of modern day living that separation and divorce represents a very difficult and stressful time for everyone concerned but can be especially difficult for children.

There is little doubt that a significant minority of children of all ages are adversely affected by their parents’ separation and divorce. The factors closely associated with what may be a difficult outcome include: the absence of one of the parents from the family home; the economic hardship faced by one or other of the parents; ongoing conflict between the parents (which the children may have experienced both before and after the separation); and experiencing more than one change in family circumstances.

However, we need to remember that although children are vulnerable, they are also very resilient and given the right support from both their parents and family (however difficult the parents own relationship may be) they can recover, adapt and thrive.

We also need to move on from seeing children of divorced or separating parents as having an experience which is essentially different from that of other children. All children experience transitions in their lives that can be very difficult and for which they may require additional support.

Loss of a parent

Research studies suggest that the loss of a parent through separation can sometimes be more adverse than the loss through bereavement. Children worry about the parent who has moved out and it can be very difficult for the parent who has moved out to sustain a close and loving relationship with their children.

Frequency of contact

Contrary to expectations research evidence suggests that the frequency of contact is not related to the outcome. What appears to count is the extent to which children are able to maintain a relationship with both parents where children feel valued and loved.

Both parents need to recognize the importance of actively facilitating contact even if the spousal relationship is not amicable.

Quality of contact

It is very important for children to have good quality contact with both parents immediately following separation. Maintaining contact with the wider family network is also important wherever possible. Sadly, contact is often only maintained with the maternal grandparents. Parents in conflict Conflict often increases following separation and can continue long after the divorce. A low level of conflict is highly important and it is important for parties to separate their ‘spousal’ role, which may be ending, from their role as parents which will continue.

Children do not get used to high levels of conflict. Instead they become sensitised to it and this may give rise to emotional and physical problems.

What can we do to help?

Research suggests that there are a number of important factors that appear to be helpful for parents and children: telling the children together about the decision to separate; offering clear and honest explanations appropriate to the children’s level of understanding - best done at home and not just before bedtime; making clear that it is the adults decision to separate and that the children are not responsible; making clear that both parents will continue to be available for their children as much as possible and will always love them; the children may need to ask the same questions repeatedly and seek frequent reassurance - offer this as much as possible; and by allowing children to express their own emotions.

Seeking help

Whether parents choose to sort out their difficulties through seeking legal advice from Solicitors or with the help of a third party - a Family Mediator - a non confrontational approach will always be helpful.

Mediation is not always suitable for every separating couple but can help. Often arrangements that are made in Mediation are more likely to be longer lasting and enable parents to better cope and begin to make plans for their future.

Our Specialist Family Service

At Canterbury Law Solicitors we are able to offer you specialist help in Family Law. We have considerable experience in this difficult area of the law.

As accredited specialist members of the Law Society’s Advanced Family Law Panel and Family Mediation Panel and accredited as a Family Mediator by the Legal Services Commission and Resolution we are able to offer help with the many issues that commonly arise in these very difficult situations.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you, do please get in touch. We will always be very happy to help you. We pride ourselves in being approachable and professional and we will always deal with you in a very supportive way, sensitive to the individual needs of you and your family.