Impact of divorce and separation on children

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How to help your child cope with divorce and separation

It is estimated that 1 in 3 children in the UK are likely to experience parental separation before the age of 16 and when parents break up the effect on the family can sometimes be devastating.

Parents are often worried about the impact that their relationship breakdown will have on their children and what they could do to minimise the risk of any adverse effects. What is important to remember is that it is not necessarily the divorce itself that has the potential to cause the most damage but it is uncertainty of what lies ahead. The handling of the separation and how the children are told of the separation is so important. Parents should always tell the children of their plan to separate together and agree what will be said to them beforehand. Explain to the children what is going to happen in language they will understand and be ready to answer questions which can often come when least expected. Great care must always be taken to protect the children from acrimonious and heated proceedings and not to criticise the other parent to the children when they are in their care.

When it comes to academic achievement, it is universally acknowledged by researchers that children of separated parents (or even single parent families) are just as able to perform well in academic and extra-curricular activities as any other child.

Manage your child’s expectations

Given a wish list, most children would want their parents to “get back together again” so it is important that their expectations are managed at all times. Many children want the fluidity to move between their two new homes and not to be bound by regimented contact times and squabbles if they are returned slightly later than planned. This is not always possible but building a degree of flexibility into contact arrangements as much as possible will lead to less contention for concerned.

Communication and understanding between parents is crucial. The ‘stability’ of your estranged relationship with former partner/spouse is what will really matter to your children. Your actions will speak volumes. Children will thrive when their attempts to maintain their loving and stable relationship with both parents is encouraged. Although you, as a parent are no longer in a relationship with the other parent you will always be their parents and from their birth, your children had the absolute right to have a meaningful relationship with each of you.

The effects of a divorce and separation can be felt many years on, and for some people anxieties will never be forgotten. We often hear people, who as children may have experienced a difficult time in a fractured family, say that they will never divorce. These children may have learned the hard way. But of course the converse is also true as living together in a family where the parental relationship was strained may have been having a more negative impact than the divorce itself. If both parents are happier and more content this can have a positive impact on your parenting and your relationship with the children.

So try to see your separation through the eyes of your children. What would they most want you as their parent to do for them? What would you have wanted your parents to agree for you if had gone through a separation when you were a child? Even if you no longer love the parent, your children will continue to love you for the whole of their lives.

What can you offer them and how can you best help them through this difficult time? No one said it was easy to raise a family.

If you would like any legal advice on these issues or have any questions relating to this article please contact the author directly on or our general enquiries line +44 (0)20 31785669.

By Ann Thomas (Partner) and  Lauren Bovington (Paralegal)

Sponsored article by The International Family Law Group LLP

The contents of this article are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such, Legal advice should always be sought for your specific circumstance.

The International Family Law Group LLP is a specialist law firm, based in London, looking after international and national families. iFLG handles a plethora of financial and forum matters linked to a relationship breakdown and matters relating to children (child relocation, abduction, adoption, surrogacy, contact and residence issues). As accredited international family law specialists iFLG regularly receives instructions from foreign lawyers concerning matters in England and Wales. iFLG is also regularly instructed by ICACU (Central Authority for England and Wales) and we also provide expert evidence abroad in family cases.

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