Going through a divorce can be one of the toughest times of your life, and this is naturally magnified if there are children involved.
Your key concern will be to ensure they remain as unaffected by the change as possible, and no matter how acrimonious your split is, it’s vital that your children are kept away from any animosity.
There are two aspects to this issue; firstly you must try to make sure your child’s personal life remains as peaceful as possible during this time of upheaval, while secondly there are also legal implications to consider.
Breaking the news
Much will depend on the child’s age, with older children potentially more aware of what is happening. No one knows your children better than you, so you are best placed to judge what the best approach will be to manage this situation.
While it is important to be honest, there are some things you should avoid when breaking the news of your divorce to your children. Most importantly, it is advisable to steer clear of blaming the other parent for the break up, even if this is how you really feel.
Try to avoid becoming visibly upset or angry during the conversation, as this will undoubtedly prove more distressing for your child. Some couples find it best if they are both present when the child is informed, in order that any questions can be dealt with straight away and not dragged out for longer than is necessary.
One of the biggest challenges you may face here is that children will inevitably blame themselves for the divorce, no matter how much you try to persuade them otherwise. In time, they will come to realize that this is not the case, but in the early stages your reassurance can prove invaluable.
Finally, you and your partner should try to cooperate and ensure that your children suffer as little disruption as possible to their personal lives. While there will need to be arrangements in place for both parents to see the child, they must be allowed to continue as normal wherever possible.
Divorce, children and the law
The following advice concerns UK law.
Many couples think that their divorce will mean months of legal wrangling over their children, but this simply doesn’t have to be the case.
If you and your partner can come to a workable arrangement regarding each parent’s contact with the children, it is highly unlikely the courts will get involved. Of course, if you cannot agree then you will need to see a solicitor.
Sadly there is often a spike in January when unhappy couples see the New Year as an opportunity for a fresh start and they decide to divorce.
Even at this stage, it is preferable to keep the matter away from the courts if at all possible. Many law firms offer the services of solicitors who are experienced in mediation or collaborative law, and they will attempt to help you reach an agreement.
Where this cannot be achieved, the non-resident parent will need to apply for a court order. At this stage it is important to stress again that children should be kept apart from this process as much as possible.
The courts can pass a number of rulings on various practical aspects affecting children with separated parents. Some of these orders are detailed below:
- It must be decided who the child will live with. This can be settled by a Sole Residence Order, where the child’s primary residence will be with one parent. Alternatively, there could be a Joint Residence Order.
- Arguably the area which causes the most disputes between separated parents is the issue of contact with the child. A Contact Order can help set out the level of contact between a child and it’s non resident parent.
- If both parents cannot agree on one particular aspect, the courts may apply a Specific Issue Order.
- Ideally, a Prohibited Steps Order will not be necessary, as these forbid one parent from a specific course of action to do with the child.
Whatever you and your former partner need to do to finalise your divorce, it is essential that your children remain at the forefront of your decision making. They’ll thank you for it later.
Jackson Lees are a UK law firm specialising in all aspects of family law, including divorces involving children.