One of the biggest worries that couples who are considering or going through a divorce have is the worry about the impact it will have on their children. Divorce can be a stressful process for all involved, especially if you don’t agree on certain aspects. You’ll want to do all you can to minimise the impact on your children, so these issues have to be dealt with carefully and sensitively. Above all, you must remember to put the children first.
In this article, we’re going to go over some of the biggest questions about divorce and children.
How will my children cope with divorce?
A relationship breakdown can have a big emotional impact on children, even if it doesn’t initially seem like they’re affected. It can lead to feelings of sadness, anger, bewilderment, anxiety, loneliness and more. Children can also feel like they are the cause of the issues between their parents.
Children can also become confused, wondering if the separation is temporary. Younger children may even cling on to the hope that their parents will suddenly get back together, even after long periods of separation.
It’s important to be aware that children may try to hide their feelings or may even tell each parent something different, depending on what they think that parent wants to hear. Parents can sometimes believe that it’s not having much impact on their children when, in reality, the situation is far worse than they think.
How can I help my children through a divorce?
Always try to give your children as much reassurance as possible and try to clearly explain what is happening in a way that they can understand. Try to avoid changing the family routine and encourage them to still have a relationship with both of you. Make them aware that it’s ok to talk about their feelings with you and how they feel about the other parent so that they don’t feel like they have divided loyalties.
What you should never do is be critical of the other parent in front of the child, or do anything that will undermine their relationship with said parent. Never ignore your children’s feelings, and even ask older children for their advice on the situation. Above all, never involve the children in your battles with the other parent or try to use your children against your partner.
How do I ensure my children’s interests are put first?
The simple answer is to remember that, regardless of what has happened between you and your partner, you will still need to work together as parents in the future. It does children no good to see their parents constantly fighting. So your first responsibility will be to minimise conflict with your partner and support each other in the future.
It may be useful to discuss a parenting plan with your partner. For an example of a parenting plan, take a look at this tool from Cafcass, an organisation that represents children in family court cases.
What if we don’t agree about our children?
With such an emotionally charged situation, it’s unsurprising that parents may not agree with arrangements regarding children. As mentioned earlier, ensuring that putting children first is always on your mind, is the key to maintaining a friendly and civil relationship with your partner. This will allow the practicalities of childcare to be discussed freely. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always go that smoothly.
If you can’t come to an agreement over your children, mediation or collaborative law (in which each parent hires a solicitor who will sit in with you on a series of ‘four-way meetings’ between you, your solicitor, your partner and their solicitor) may be introduced. It may also help if you attend counselling sessions or family therapy. Going to court should always be a last resort.
Even if you already agree with how you will handle the arrangements around children, it’s still important for parents to get expert legal advice from a family law solicitor, to help understand their position and consider all the options available to them.