Divorce from a child’s perspective: “Don’t stay together for our sake!”

January 02, 2016  |   Posted by :   |   Blog

child based divorce

A recent poll by Resolution commissioned by family law organisation Resolution has gathered opinions and information from young people with experience of parental separation, revealing insights into children’s perspectives of divorce. The survey interviewed young people aged between 14 and 22 on how they felt about their involvement in their parents’ separation. The results showed that the vast majority of children (82%) would rather their parents were happy apart than unhappy together.

“Don’t stay together for a child’s sake,” said one respondent, “Better to divorce than stay together for another few years and divorce on bad terms.” Another young person in the survey added that although children “will certainly be very upset at the time [they] will often realise, later on, that it was for the best.”

The research demonstrated clearly that young people want and need to be informed during separation, and to have the option to be involved in decisions that will affects them, for example where they’re going to live afterwards:

  • 88% said it was important to ensure children aren’t made to feel like they have to choose between their parents;
  • 82% said that it was better for their parents to divorce than stay together unhappily;
  • 62% said their parents did not include them in the decision-making process;
  • 50% said they were not given a choice of which parent they would like to live with after separation;
  • 47% said they didn’t understand what was happening during their parents’ divorce;
  • 31% said they wished their parents had not badmouthed each other to them;
  • 30% said they would have liked their parents to know how it felt to be stuck in the middle;
  • Almost 20% said they sometimes felt that they were to blame for their parents’ separation.

From a positive perspective, the survey also suggested that although children wished for more involvement, parents generally had their best interests at heart, with 50% of young people agreeing that their needs were put first by their parents during the process of separation.

Family law solicitor and mediator Frances Lindsay has many years of experience working with separating parents through divorce, mediation and collaborative family law processes, and comments: “I often hear people say they have been staying together ‘for the sake of the children’ and are worried about how separation will affect their kids. Sometimes these anxieties mean that they have stuck in an unhappy relationship for far too long. Children are very perceptive, and while they would of course prefer Mum and Dad to be together, they would also prefer not to be in household where their parents are unhappy. Parents often worry so much about the prospect of separation that they try to protect their kids from the reality of the situation, leaving them confused, uncertain and left out. The most important thing is for children to feel loved, safe, and secure. Be honest with them, involve them, and listen to them – they may well surprise you with their resilience.”

Family law organisation Resolution, who commissioned the survey, have drawn up a Resolution Parenting Charter which provides advice for separating parents, explaining what children should have the right to expect from their parents during the process, including:

  • Feeling loved and cared for by both parents
  • Being at the centre of decisions that affect them
  • Retaining safe contact with both sides of their family
  • Enjoying a childhood without the pressure of adult concerns

“Being exposed to conflict and uncertainty about the future are what’s most damaging for children, not the fact of divorce itself,” said Chair of Resolution Jo Edwards, commenting on the report’s findings, “This means it is essential that parents act responsibly, to shelter their children from adult disagreements and take appropriate action to communicate with their children throughout this process, and make them feel involved in key decisions, such as where they will live after the divorce.

“We should be supporting parents to choose an out of court divorce method, such as mediation or collaborative practice. This will help parents to maintain control over the divorce and ensure their children’s needs are, and remain, the central focus.”

For more advice on mediation, collaborative family law, and divorcing when you have children to consider, speak to one of the friendly, Resolution-trained solicitors at Frances Lindsay & Co.

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