Children during divorce
You know that it will hurt them, even if they show no signs of it now. But there are things that you can do – and avoid doing – to limit the damage to children during divorce.
Firstly, how you and your partner interact with each other is critical. Conflict between parents is more damaging than the separation itself.
Secondly, one parent bad-mouthing the other hurts a child more than you can imagine. A child is made up of both their parents, and if one parent is attacking the other, they’re attacking part of their child.
If, despite all your best efforts, you find that you’re only human and have said something about your ex that you know was wrong, apologise to your child and explain that when we’re tired, angry etc we sometimes say things we don’t mean. Depending on the age of your children, you may be able to relate it to them falling out with a friend and saying things that aren’t true.
There’s no shortage of research and advice out there but I would highly recommend Penelope Leach’s book ‘Family Breakdown: helping children hang on to both their parents.’
Although preserving a sense of family and nurturing their relationships with their children is what most parents seek to ensure, parents going through separation or divorce may put off talking to their children for fear of causing more distress. But for children during divorce or separtion, even more than for adults, not knowing and not daring to ask questions is the hardest thing to bear. My colleague, Child and Family Counsellor Gill Cashdan can help you if you are:
- Wondering what your children are really thinking and feeling
- Having a hard time finding the words to talk about changes in the family
- Wanting to reassure your children but don’t know what will help
With over forty years’ experience working with families and children during divorce, Gill can help you find the right words to:
- Encourage your children to ask about what is happening
- Explain in simple, reassuring words how future changes may affect their lives
- Reassure them that whatever has gone wrong between their parents, your love for them has not changed
Gill can also see children and young people and
- Offer them time and space to think about what has changed in their lives
- Help them find a way to confide their fears in you or in someone else that they trust
Gill uses direct, respectful, confidential conversation as well as books, drawing and play therapy techniques which may free up children to express themselves more openly.
These applications cause huge anxiety in parents. When they have been preceded by threats from their ex in relation to their children, on top of the loss of confidence associated with separation and divorce, it’s hard to think straight. As a former solicitor specialising in children work I can reassure you, help you work out what’s best for your children, and help you to stand firm for them.
You may need to decide quickly whether you will be represented in court and, if so, whether you need a solicitor or a barrister.
If you can’t afford legal representation, would a McKenzie Friend be a support to you? If so, can you afford a professional one, or would a friend or relative be enough? This may be an option, provided that the other parent wouldn’t object to them being in court with you.
Do give me a call: I can talk through your options with you so that you have all the information you need to make a decision.
Contact is the right of the child, not the parent. Children have a right to a safe and positive relationship with both their parents. What may seem fair between the parents can be damagingly unfair to the child.
Separation and divorce are traumatic and difficult times for parents, usually involving feelings of loss. It can be heartbreaking for a parent who no longer lives with their child every day and, not surprisingly, they want as much contact as they can get.
But this ‘getting’ may involve taking more from their child than he or she can give at that time without causing lasting damage. It can be hard for a child to go from one parent to the other and then back again. Contact needs to go at the child’s pace and not be arranged to fit into the adults’ timetable or around their feelings of justice.
I would highly recommend Penelope Leach’s book ‘Family Breakdown: helping children hang on to both their parents’ which explains how much contact is suitable for different aged children.
There are two different scenarios here, the first is child abduction, and the second is applications to take a child abroad (known as ‘remove a child from the jurisdiction’).
1. Child abduction
If you’re seriously and genuinely worried that your child(ren) may be abducted i.e. if your ex has somewhere to live abroad, the means to support themselves there, is capable of caring for the child(ren) themselves or has someone abroad who can help them, or is mentally unstable, you need to take fast action.
There’s a lot of useful information on this website:
If you need a solicitor, please make sure you choose one from the list on this website if your case is urgent.
This is a specialist area of law and if fast action’s required, you need someone who knows how to get hold of an emergency judge, not someone who has to stop and look it all up.
This list only names firms of solicitors, not individuals, and it’s likely that there’ll only be one person in each firm who specialises in this work. You need to know who that person is, and not be fobbed off with a colleague in their absence.
You could look the firm up on the internet so that you can ask for the child abduction specialist by name when you call. Or you could ask the receptionist which solicitor specialises in child abduction before asking to speak to them.
These solicitors will all have different fees. So if money’s an issue you may need to shop around, and not necessarily go to the one nearest to you. You may be entitled to legal aid, so do ask first.
I can’t help you with any emergency work but I can help and support you through any subsequent process.
2. Applications to remove a child from the jurisdiction
You cannot take your child abroad without the written consent of everyone else who has parental responsibility (usually only the other parent).
If you do, (even for a holiday) that is child abduction, which is a serious criminal offence. If the other parent will not agree, an application has to be made to the court for permission.
Applications to live permanently abroad are usually made by mothers, are mostly successful and are always hugely difficult emotionally, especially if the child is taken to the other side of the world.
A successful application takes a lot of careful preparation, but most of this is practical and factual, rather than legal. If money is an issue, you may wish to do a lot of it yourself as you’ll want to have the best representation in court that you can afford.
If you need more affordable help to make or oppose an application I can guide you through the process and help you find suitable representation for the hearing.
“Diana has been helping me for the past year with problems of contact between my daughter and her father.
She has helped me focus on what I wish to happen and has given me invaluable advice on how to get out of my daughter what she would like to happen. She has good humouredly and sometimes amusingly helped me negotiate my way through a very tricky time.
Supportive and always sharp on the subject of the law I would recommend that the “Dealing with Divorce” path be taken by all, it should save you £££’s and speed the way to new life.”
Mrs RK, London
To arrange a free, confidential, 20 minute chat about how I might be able to help you, please email me or call 01932 843434