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Separating when children are involved is never a nice subject. January has often been referred to as ‘Divorce Month’. As typically it is the time of year where the most applications for divorce are lodged. There are a number of reasons why this might be the case. However many suggest that it is down to couples not wanting to rock the boat over the Christmas period. In fact, recent UK statistics show that almost 50% of children reach their sixteenth birthday having experienced their parents divorcing. Deciding to separate is never easy, and with children to consider, the process can be even more stressful and upsetting. If this is a situation you have found yourself in, seeking the right advice is key. A family lawyer with expertise on how to handle the situation can be a great support. They will ensure that your children’s best interests are first and foremost.
It can be tempting to put off the inevitable conversation with your children. The truth is that they have probably already sensed that something is wrong. Often, they pick up on subtle changes in family dynamics. So even if you have never argued or shouted in front of them, that doesn’t mean they’ve not noticed the there is issues. Where possible, it’s best to try and break the news together. So that they can see the decision is coming from both of you. Whilst it is important to be honest with your children, bear in mind their age and how much information is appropriate to share at this stage.
It is important for both parents to reassure their children that they are not the cause of the separation. It’s very common for children to overthink such life-changing events and worry that it was their actions that caused it. Both parents should work together to ensure that their children understand that it was nothing to do with them; and it was something that you as adults have decided.
Once the children are aware of the situation, they may hide their emotions or find it difficult to talk about how they are feeling with their parents. Especially if they were very close to the parent who has left the family home. It can be helpful to find a trusted family member or close friend who can act as a confidante for your children. So they have someone outside of the situation that they can confide in and speak to.
If you or another adult is concerned about your child’s mental state following the news. It is worth considering seeking advice from a doctor, psychologist or social worker. It’s very common for children to experience issues such as anxiety, stress, low appetite and lack of sleep when facing a difficult situation.
There are many reasons why couples choose the separate. For some, the decision is entirely mutual and amicable. When this is not the case, it’s important to avoid speaking badly about the other parent in front of your child. Or discussing issues or details with your children that are inappropriate for their age or understanding. The common term for this in family law cases is parental alienation. A relationship breakdown can be extremely distressing, particularly if it was not your choice or came as a sudden shock. However, your children should never be made to take sides or fed information which could influence their perception of the other parent. It is also very important that children are not present at meetings with lawyers, mediators or other advisors. These meetings are designed for adults only. There needs to be the freedom to discuss matters in detail, so are certainly not a place for little ears.
About the Author
Henry Brookman is a divorce solicitor and senior partner at Brookman, a highly experienced family law firm. With expertise in a full range of family legal matters including divorce in the UK and internationally, complex financial issues, property settlements and children’s matters. Brookman is ranked by the Legal 500 and has been awarded the Law Society’s quality mark, Lexcel.