With the current high divorce rates it is common for at least some of your children’s friends to have parents who have divorced or separated. It is important that parents who are about to divorce realise that it is not always the divorce itself that can create problems for the children, but rather the way in which the divorce is dealt with and the level of conflict to which the children are exposed.
It is widely accepted by the experts that one of the most destructive patterns of behaviour that children experience at this stressful time is observing one parent criticise the other. The children have worked out that as they are genetically made up of both parents, if one of them is “bad”, “selfish” or “stupid” then they must be as well. Unfortunately when tensions are running high in litigation and Mum and Dad are receiving letters from their respective solicitors on a weekly (or more frequent basis) it is sometimes difficult for them to keep calm and shield their children from what is going on. Most parents will try their best not to involve their children and are successful, but there are others that I have come across that are incapable of doing so as they are so blinded by the hurt and anger that they feel.
In doing a lot of mediation and collaborative work I have found that the outlook for the children in these cases appears, on the whole, to be much brighter. Most of my clients who choose the collaborative law process spend a lot of time (and rightfully so) in the meetings discussing their relationship with the children and how they would like to see the arrangements work for the future after they are separated from their partner. In a traditional divorce with court proceedings this can sometimes be overlooked whilst the couple are thinking about the points that they can score against the other in terms of their parenting skills, or on financial matters.
The collaborative law and mediation process allows each parent to discuss, in a safe environment, their fears, concerns and hopes for the future and how they would like to see the children’s relationship with each parent evolve. This is so much more important and productive than arguing about who gets what and trying to carve out exactly which hours and minutes of the child’s day gets spent with which parent.
There are many family consultants and other specialists available to assist and support both parents and the children through the process. These professionals and support groups provide valuable advice and insight into the affect that the change is having on the children and how best to cope with it. In my view these professionals are still under-utilised and consideration should be given in almost every case, to whether the children would benefit from the involvement of this support alongside the legal process.