Separating is never going to be easy - whether married or unmarried. Whilst it is of course important to deal with and resolve the practical issues that come about in such circumstances, whether they be divorce, property or financial, it is imperative to place high importance on how to deal with the separation in the best interests of any children that are involved.
In order to be able to speak with children about the separation and the changes that will take place, the parents have to first deal with their own emotions and understand how anger, denial, despair and sadness will affect them and the way that they deal with the difficulties they face.
If the parents are unable to manage their feelings, it will not help the children deal with their own emotions. How a child is to be spoken to about the situation, what is to be said to them and when, should ideally be agreed between the parents. If a child is led to believe that the separation is the fault of one particular parent, they will cause a great deal of confusion for them.
Parents will still need to deal with each other in relation to arrangements for the children. It will be necessary to try and refrain from raising personal issues or going over old ground during those conversations. To do so will only create conflict which will muddy those arrangements and potentially lead to a situation where arrangements break down completely. Such circumstances are most likely to lead to an application being made to Court to ask a Judge to decide on the arrangements that should be in place.
Sir Paul Coleridge - former senior High Court Judge of the Family Division - has recently been quite vocal in the press about the cases involving arrangements for children at Christmas which he heard whilst a High Court Judge and the extreme behaviour and pettiness of particular sets of parents who refused to give an inch or were hostile in their dealing with such arrangements. Sir Paul says “I used to tell divorcing couples that if they really wanted to do what’s best for their children, they wouldn’t be in court at all”.
Liz Edwards, Partner at QualitySolicitors Amphlett Lissimore, is one of the founders of Resolution’s “Parenting After Parting” initiative. There are workshops available to parents to help them talk to their children about separation and divorce, to understand how children are affected, information on putting the children’s interests at the forefront of any decision making and how to establish or retain a good parenting relationship with an ex. Information about this initiative can be found at http://www.resolution.org.uk/parentingafterparting/.
In circumstances where it really is not possible for parents to agree arrangements between them whether that be where a child is to live or how time is divided between parents, our private children law department can provide comprehensive and pragmatic advice as to the options available. Details for Carole Hack and Liz Edwards who specialise in this area are available from our contact pages.