Divorce (and the separation of cohabiting parents) typically lies on a spectrum of “mildly unsettling” to “utterly horrendous” and the fact that the UK does not currently recognise “no-fault” divorce creates additional challenges for those who are trying to manage an amicable separation, even though the legal process of divorce in the UK has a fundamental principle that the welfare of any children must be put front and centre at all times.
While members of the legal profession will do everything they can to minimise the impact on children, at the end of the day, the main responsibility for the welfare of children lies, as always with their parents. With that in mind, here are three suggestions which might help.
Have a solution prepared before you tell children the problem
Create a plan of action for you and your partner, so you are both clear on the way forward, before you tell your children. This is less about focusing on the positives of the change, as, from the children’s perspective, there may be absolutely none, but about limiting the negatives and, crucially, emphasising to your children that you remain united as parents.
NB: It is a sad fact of modern life that the more people know about something, the more likely it is that children, even younger ones, will get to hear about it, or at least rumours of it, via social media. Even if you limit your children’s access to social media (or ban them completely from using it), the reality is that they will almost certainly interact with children who do have access to it and who will pass on the gossip to their friends as people do. With that in mind, it’s strongly advisable to be very careful about where, when and with whom you discuss your feelings and plans.
Underline the fact that the divorce is about you and not about them
It can be very tricky to decide just how much to tell children, even older ones. You may wish to take the approach of telling them the truth and nothing but the truth, but not necessarily the whole truth. There is, however, one fact which must be underlined in all situations which is that the divorce is about you and your partner as individuals, not about you and your partner as parents. Not only does that mean that you will both expect to have the same relationship with your children, but it also means that you will continue to work together with regards to the practicalities of parenting, such as setting ground rules for behaviour and ensuring that they are enforced.
Keep change to a minimum
In a sense, keeping change to a minimum is a way of making good on your promise that this change is only going to affect you and your partner as individuals, rather than having a negative impact on your children. If you find yourself having to make unwelcome changes to their established routine, then you are basically demonstrating that your divorce is going to have a negative impact on them.
K J Smith Solicitors are family solicitors in Reading, specialising in all aspects of divorce and separation in including finances on divorce, family mediation, cohabitation agreements and collaborative law.