02 April 2020 - Article
This week is Dispute Resolution week. The hashtag on all of the social media campaigns is putting #childrenfirst but what does that mean? Having been a divorce lawyer for over 20 years I have guided thousands of clients through divorce and separation. I have often been asked for my top tips as to how to make the process less painful for children and here they are:
- Tell the children jointly and kindly about your separation. I appreciate that with all of the emotion that may be around at this time you may feel as though it is impossible but if you can sit down together with the children and explain to them clearly and in language that they understand what is going on, it will make the situation much easier for them.
- Answer questions raised by the children as honestly as possible however difficult that may be. Also, be available to talk to them about these issues when they want to talk.
- Try and be civil and respectful to each other particularly in front of the children and absolutely at handovers.
- Try not to argue in front of the children — often they will be blaming themselves for the breakdown of the relationship and rowing will only make them feel worse.
- Do not denigrate or speak badly of third parties however tempting that may be. In particular, keep your private views about any partner on the scene private and away from the children.
- Make it clear that the children are welcome to contact the other parent when they are with you. Give them a mobile phone and allow them to chat if it makes them feel happier.
- Be clear about any contact arrangements so that the children understand where they are meant to be when and are not concerned about what is happening in their day to day life.
- Try and show a united front as far as the children are concerned — discussing issues such as health problems/education or general wellbeing together so that you present a common view, if possible to the children.
- If you think any child is suffering real problems as a consequence of your divorce/separation, speak to your solicitor about finding professional help for the child.
- Please do not think you are alone, there are lots of resources available. In particular Resolution — http://www.resolution.org.uk/ is full of excellent resources.
I appreciate it may just feel too difficult to deal with things as I have set out above but putting your children first will reap rewards in the future and hopefully mean that you are able to effectively co-parent together going forwards.