Children and divorce

Just this week, the wife of Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd announced on social media that she and her husband are to split but remain committed to their children.  A cursory check on social media will show that the marriage appears not to have been in a good place for some time.  If this couple, or any couple, is to split, how might their children be affected and what can the couple do to ensure that there is minimal impact on them?

When parents with high levels of conflict divorce.

For some children, divorce can bring relief into a previously stressful environment.  With arguing parties separated, there is more room for nurture, enjoyment and love.  And so whilst children may not want their parents to be apart, they quickly come to enjoy the reduced levels of hostility in the home.  

Conversely, however, divorce can negatively affect children with parents that do not argue or appear to be overly unhappy. In these instances, a harmonious home life becomes disrupted and permanently changed, when from the child’s perspective, it may not have been necessary for that change to take place.

Why can divorce be difficult for children?

Divorce can be difficult for children from a couple of aspects.

  1. Splitting the family assets.  There will undoubtedly be change.  In many cases, finances need to stretch to cover two households which will naturally have an impact. In cases where there are no real financial constraints or hardship, the splitting of physical assets tied to memories (and therefore what the child has always known) can be difficult.
  2. Splitting the family. One parent will be living permanently away from the home and regardless of how well matters have progress, this will be a challenge for children with parents that have previously been minimally hostile.  The displaced parent will need to ensure that contact is maintained and efforts are made to keep in regular contact with the children.

How can divorcing parents making splitting up easier for children?

It’s never going to be easy, but there are a few things that parents can do to help their children through separation.

  1. Talk to a family law expert as soon as possible; this will support points 2 & 3.
  2. Stop arguing in front of the children.
  3. Keep the legal talk away from them.
  4. Remain involved in their lives as much as before (if a parent did a specific activity like taking a child to football after school, continue doing this).
  5. Don’t ask the children to ever take sides.
  6. Ask them how they are feeling. Listen and act upon what they say.
  7. Have a pre-nup – this will minimise the levels of legal intervention required.

How can a solicitor help a child during a divorce?

Agreements around financial support are usually the primary area of discussion, ensuring that any children are adequately provisioned for.  Other areas of child law that a solicitor will help with are arrangements that include where the children live and how parental responsibility is shared between both parents.  This will include school holidays and other eventualities such as what might happen if one of the parents wished to move far away, or even abroad?  Other instances might be agreements for a parent taking the children abroad on holiday.

The splitting of a family is never going to be easy when children are involved, but as long as they remain the focus and both parents are committed to them, the pain and anxiety the separation causes can be reduced. 

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