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The Ministry of Justice’s consultation on reforming the legal requirements for divorce closed last week. Responses to the consultation have been submitted by all interested parties, including organisations representing lawyers in general, and family lawyers in particular.

One of those responses, from The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has raised a few legal eyebrows.

I haven’t seen The Bar Council’s full response (it doesn’t appear to have been published on its website), but the Law Society Gazette reported that The Bar Council have told the government that they consider that “making separating couples wait six months before their divorce is finalised is an ‘unacceptable delay’ for those who do not have children.”

To explain, in its consultation document (which you can find here) the Ministry said that it wished to test a proposal that there be a six month minimum timeframe between the decree nisi and the decree absolute. The basic idea is that: “The Government wishes to make sure that couples have sufficient time to reflect on the decision to divorce and to make arrangements for the future.” The Ministry felt that this timeframe “allows a sufficient period for most couples to consider the implications of divorce and reach agreement on practical arrangements, while not being so long a period of uncertainty that it would have a long-term effect on children.”

There is, of course, a ‘period of refection’ built into the present law, but it is just six weeks and one day. The Bar Council have apparently said of the proposal that it be extended to six months:

“It is not clear whether there is empirical or anecdotal evidence that the current period of 6 weeks and 1 day is too short a period of time and what the reasoning is for extending it to 6 months. The period is a minimum and a decree absolute will not be made until the court is satisfied that to make a decree absolute will not cause hardship and, in the case of a marriage with dependent children, that satisfactory arrangements have been made for the children.”

As I say, this has raised a few legal eyebrows. One eminent QC said on Twitter that he was surprised to read it, and that: “Provided there are ‘exceptions’ in case of genuine urgency a 6 month delay seems not unreasonable to me.” This received a response from an eminent family law solicitor who also expressed surprise, saying that unless the responses were “broadly aligned” we were “not going to get much-needed change over the line”.

But is The Bar Council right?

Leaving aside the fact that The Bar Council seem to be unaware that is no longer necessary for the court to be satisfied about arrangements for any dependent children before the divorce can go through, I believe they are. In fact, to me there is something odd about imposing an arbitrary period for couples to reflect upon whether they want to go through with the divorce.

As The Bar Council says, the proposal “may not give sufficient weight to the serious consideration that spouses give to petitioning for divorce at the outset rather than in the period between nisi and absolute decrees”. Quite. The idea of a ‘period for refection’ is just another example of the ‘we know best’ sanctimonious attitude of so many who always want to have a say in how our divorce law is structured. Why don’t we just treat divorcing couples as adults, and let them decide when their marriage should come to an end?

And anyway, how often does it happen that the parties become reconciled in the six week period between decree nisi and decree absolute? I’m not sure I ever recall it happening in all my 26 years practising as a family lawyer. Whatever the number is, it must be vanishingly small. Extending the period to six months will only extend the pain, and delay the time when the parties can get on with their lives.

Which makes me wonder whether we even need a two-decree system. In his foreword to the consultation document Lord Chancellor David Gaulke says: “It is right that the legal process for divorce should give couples an important opportunity to consider the implications of divorcing.” But why? As The Bar Council said, and as I can testify from my 26 years practising as a family lawyer, spouses seeking a divorce have already reflected hard upon the matter before the process begins. They do not need further time for reflection.

Of course the delay is not just about reflection. The Ministry mention ‘practical arrangements’ which have to be sorted out. In particular, this means sorting out financial and property matters. But there is of course nothing to say that these matters will be resolved within six months – they often take longer. Would it make more sense to say the divorce can only be finalised (whether by second decree or the only decree) when finances have been sorted out, as is the case in other countries?

I realise that these thoughts add to the lack of a ‘broad alignment’ of proposals, but I doubt anyway that the government will be swung by what lawyers have to say. And I suspect that there will be a considerable array of other ideas contained within the responses to the consultation. Whether those ideas will persuade the government to deviate from its plans, we will just have to wait and see.

The post Is six months too long to finalise a divorce? appeared first on Stowe Family Law.

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How is it that a Princess finds herself in a position whereby she cannot afford to be legally represented at a financial remedies hearing? That was the improbable-seeming scenario in the recent case HRH Louis Prince of Luxembourg v HRH Tessy Princess of Luxembourg & Another (Application for Financial Remedy), and one which serves as a lesson to all lesser mortals involved in financial remedy proceedings.

For those who have not come across the case in the mainstream media, it concerned the financial remedies application of Princess Tessy of Luxembourg (the application was made in the English court as the parties resided in London). As indicated, the Princess represented herself at the final hearing of the application, albeit with the assistance of a McKenzie Friend.

But it had not always been that way. The financial remedies application had been made in January 2017. Mr Justice MacDonald, hearing the application, takes up the story:

“During the course of the ensuing financial remedy proceedings, the parties contrived to exhaust the majority of their liquid funds on legal costs, spending between them approaching £500,000. The wife continues to owe some £66,000 to her former solicitors. The upshot of this extremely unfortunate situation is that the options available to the court to meet the respective needs of the parties arising out of their marriage are now far more constrained than they might otherwise have been. It is one more example, of the far too many similar examples seen by these courts, of couples engaging in expensive and protracted internecine financial warfare, the only result of which is to place them, and their children, in a materially worse position than they would have been had they been able to engage constructively in seeking a consensual solution.”

Ouch. In fact, double-ouch, in this case. Not only is there little or nothing left to distribute between the parties, the wife is not even left with enough to pay for a lawyer to represent her. How are the mighty fallen, one might uncharitably remark.

As I say, the case is a lesson for all involved in financial remedy proceedings. Never allow yourself to become so involved in arguing your case that you lose sight of what you are arguing over. Or to put it another way, always bear in mind that the costs you are incurring should be in proportion to the value of the assets you are arguing over. And the fact that such a thing can happen to a Princess means that it can happen to anyone, if they aren’t careful.

As Mr Justice MacDonald commented, this is an all too familiar scenario. I have come across it many times over the years in the law reports, and I may well have mentioned it previously in my posts here. But if I have, I make no apology for repeating it, as it is a point that cannot be repeated too often: there is no point spending huge sums arguing over who should have what on a divorce, if the end result is that there is nothing left for anybody to have. It is such a simple and obvious point that it may seem unnecessary to make, but I can assure you that many people who should really know better have fallen into the trap of dissipating all of their assets, or the majority of them, on legal fees, leaving them with little or nothing.

And what was Princess Tessy left with? Well, not much at all. Mr Justice MacDonald made an order giving her and the children a licence to occupy the former matrimonial home, awarded her nominal maintenance and ordered the Prince to pay maintenance for the two children at the rate of £4,000 per child per annum. OK, despite their status the Prince and Princess may only in reality have been modestly well off, but at least that half a million pounds they spent on legal costs would have provided something for them to divide up. Now the Princess has been left with nothing, and she still has those outstanding legal fees to pay.

I have not touched here upon most of the judgment (in fact, I have hardly touched on any of it), which includes various legal technicalities. If you want to read it all you can do so, here.

The post Litigating away the assets: The case of Princess v Prince appeared first on Stowe Family Law.

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As the government consultation on divorce law reform and the introduction of no-fault divorce closes (10 December 2018), we are joined on the blog by an English ex-pat, who went through a divorce in Spain.

They tell us the personal story behind the research and media coverage of a no-fault divorce, the difference it made to the divorce and the positive impact it still has today on the couple’s amicable relationship.

“I have recently ‘come out the other side’ of an acrimonious divorce.  Acrimonious, but not in the traditional sense. My wife simply seemed to hate me for about 18 months after telling me she wanted a divorce.  I struggled to understand exactly why that was but didn’t retaliate.  I had in mind that this person was incredibly important to me.  This person was, and will always be a part of me, and I have to respect that piece of myself, not to mention the legacy of our relationship.

My ex-wife and I are now great friends again.

I think there are probably four main reasons why we managed to get through this.

Be emotionally prepared

Thankfully and unknowingly, I had learned the necessary measures to manage myself emotionally, thanks to related work I’ve done in the years before we separated. So yes, I was at an advantage over most people, but really the important starting point was to accept that the relationship was over, and that we’d not been happy for a long time.

We then allowed each other some space and were careful not to fan the flames during the separation and months leading up to our divorce, and the year that followed. Preparing yourself in this way is not difficult and there are loads of resources out there to help you.

Limit the damage caused

I could choose no-fault divorce. That’s only because I no longer live in the UK.  Had I still lived in the UK, I have no doubt that the divorce process would have been so much worse, as my wife would have had to make allegations against me or me against her. Even if she would have wanted to do that at the time, I know she would have regretted it later.  I know I would sincerely regret any heat of the moment allegations, had I made any.  But thankfully that was not necessary in Spain, like it is not in many other countries.

Why it’s necessary in the UK I just don’t know, but it definitely encouraged me away from using the UK family justice system and legal services.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the same applied to most divorcing British expats.

Look beyond your feelings and help others

I tried to consider my ex-wife’s personality and what she must be going through.  I threw some energy into trying to help others who might be going through similar challenges through a charity project.  OK so the project had quite modest results but that’s not the point.  It did some good and made me feel like I had gotten a lot of angst out of my system.

Accept your emotions during one of life’s toughest challenges

I firmly believe that our thoughts define us.  If you choose to focus on sad events or things that make you feel angry, it will most likely contribute to your becoming a sad and angry person.  If you choose to focus on the negative breaking point of a relationship, it will, for many people, taint the rest of the history of that relationship and just make people unhappy about a significant chunk of their lives.  Who wants that? Who would encourage such a thing?

Encouraging people to throw allegations at each other, during divorce, will just make the splitting couple focus on the allegation or incident or whatever.  Sure, we all must deal with trauma and emotions, but that should just be the catalyst to finding meaning in both of those things and using that meaning to learn and to move forward.

No fault has been on the governments’ desk for years and they’ve done nothing. During that time, every divorcing couple in the UK has had to demonstrate that their relationship hasn’t worked due to one of the reasons that the UK legal system recognises. All those couples have basically had to state what the legal system wants to hear.

Sometimes relationships don’t work

One of those reasons really ought to be that it just didn’t work…as relationships often don’t.

If you used to love each other and feel like your relationship was harmed by having to blame your partner or your partner having to blame you, then please comment below.”

If any of the issues in this blog affect you please contact us at the details below.

The post End the blame game: No fault divorce saved my relationship appeared first on Stowe Family Law.

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In this instalment of Stowe guests, we welcome back Evelyn Hoggart, a Business and Personal Development Coach who offers inclusive coaching for career management, business, personal and skill development.

Evelyn joined us last week with part one of her creating a positive future after divorce article, today she is here with part two.

What do you want?

The day-to- day practicalities of life remain important throughout any major life-changing event, and it’s wise to concentrate on having fulfilling work, a social life which suits you and meaningful personal development after your divorce.

Do you remember my client from my last blog? She created a written plan for what she wanted, starting with thoughts on her ideal new job (out of London, long term contract), and ideal new home (with a huge garden for the dog she decided to buy). She also considered her personal development. With so much time invested in work and family over the years, spare time had been hard to find. With the gift of more time and freedom, she could address this.

How?

Just like this…

Take time to dream

Dream about things that you would like to do now; things that make you excited. Rather than the oft-mentioned bucket list, think about your age and, whatever it is, pick that number of new things that you’re going to try within a year.

Here are just some of the things my clients have put in their lists:

I’m going to join a life drawing class
I’m going to finally learn the guitar; I’ve always wanted to play
I’m going to learn Spanish and book a holiday where I can use it
I’m going to get a degree!
I’m going to volunteer in a charity close to my heart

My client wrote a long list, containing things that were time-consuming, expensive and hard and others that were easy to achieve, quick and cheap.

Could you do the same?

“I know now, after fifty years, that the finding/losing, forgetting/remembering, leaving/returning, never stops. The whole of life is about another chance, and while we are alive, till the very end, there is always another chance.”

Jeanette Winterson, Why be happy when you could be normal?

What happens next?

Taking time to plan, and also time to dream, my client ended up with the type of job and home she wanted. She also realised that relaxing, dreaming and enjoying her new life had unforeseen consequences which were very positive: she stopped smoking after thirty years.

I’ve seen time and time again that it is very possible to not just survive but thrive after divorce. You can experience change and cope with it. You can learn to be; to grow and to celebrate who you are and what you want.

As Oprah Winfrey once said,

“If you are still breathing, you have a second chance”.

Evelyn Hoggart
Business and Personal Development Coach
Coaching Transitions to Transformations
evelynhoggart.co.uk

The post Stowe guests: Creating a positive future after divorce – part two appeared first on Stowe Family Law.

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My posts this week are going to be mostly about abuse of the family justice system by litigants who choose to use the system in a completely inappropriate manner, in a misguided attempt to achieve their ends. Unfortunately, this is a not uncommon occurrence, something that greatly and unnecessarily adds to the workload of an already over-stressed system, not to mention the horrendous effect it can have on the other party and, indeed, the entire family.

The first example of this phenomenon is the remarkable case VW v BH (Contested Divorce Proceedings). That case name alone will give an indication of why the case was remarkable, contested divorce cases being, as we shall see in just a moment, vanishingly rare. It was ironic indeed that the report of the case should be published in ‘Good Divorce Week’.

The case was heard by Her Honour Judge Lynn Roberts in the Family Court at Ipswich. We only have to read to the second paragraph in her 138-paragraph judgment to get a flavour of what is to follow:

“This has been an extraordinary case in very many respects as I shall return to in some detail later. The two most obviously unusual features should, however, be set out at the start. First, that this has been a three-day contested divorce trial. I understand that there are only about twenty contested divorce trials a year in this whole country. Secondly, that the respondent in these proceedings, Mr H, has contested the divorce which Ms W has brought because of his adultery despite admitting to having committed adultery for some twenty-two years of their marriage.”

I almost don’t need to say any more, as the futility of the husband’s actions in defending the case and ‘cross-petitioning’ on the basis of his wife’s alleged ‘unreasonable behaviour’ is there for all to see from just these few words.

But I will add another quote from Judge Roberts, from much later in her judgment:

“Mr H’s whole case has indeed been completely futile, a huge waste of money, a tragic destruction of family relationships, and all, in my opinion, to satisfy Mr H’s own vanity and need to be in control and for the other reasons I have suggested earlier. All he had to do was to not contest the divorce, a divorce he wanted, as virtually everybody else in the country does, and this couple would have had their decree nisi last year, the various relationships would, in all likelihood, have been well on the way to healing by now and the money saved for the family.”

I only need to add to that the inevitable denouement, in three parts:

Firstly, Judge Roberts found that there was “overwhelming evidence” that the husband had been committing adultery for over twenty years, and that the wife was therefore entitled to a decree nisi.

Secondly, Judge Roberts found that none of the husband’s allegations against the wife stood up, and therefore dismissed his (cross-) petition, which was obviously intended just to shift blame for the breakdown of the marriage from the husband to the wife, when it was clearly the husband who was  at ‘fault’ (I hesitate to use that word).

Finally, Judge Roberts ordered the husband to pay the wife’s costs, which will no doubt be considerable, and which were obviously incurred to achieve nothing, it being accepted by both parties at the outset that the marriage had irretrievably broken down. Further, Judge Roberts ordered that the costs should be: “on an indemnity basis because of the totally unnecessary proceedings that have taken place, a huge amount of costs which have been made much more expensive than they needed to be because of decisions taken by Mr H.”

There is a lesson here for anyone whose marriage has broken down: no matter how angry or upset you may be, taking those emotions to the court is going to be both pointless and destructive. No matter how strongly you feel that the world should know that you are the ‘innocent’ party in the marriage breakdown, the court will be the ultimate arbiter, not you. You need to take a step back and consider the possible consequences of your actions, not just upon yourself, but also upon others, including those most important to you.

Of course, this case is also a perfect advertisement for removing from parties the option of defending a divorce, or even asserting who is to blame for the marriage breakdown, by the introduction of no-fault divorce. Let us hope that for the sake of families like the unfortunate one in this case we have a no-fault divorce system sooner rather than later.

You can read the full, sorry, judgment, here.

The post Remarkable case demonstrates futility of contesting divorce proceedings appeared first on Stowe Family Law.

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I am in full support of this week’s Resolution Good Divorce Week campaign. Its focus is on minimising the effects of separation and divorce on children and seeking to ensure that they continue to have good relationships with both parents.

But during this week, I stopped to think about the children’s relationships with their extended family – are grandparents (and extended family) the forgotten victims of a divorce?

I often see the impact that divorce has on the whole family, not just the couple involved. Grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins are all affected when a couple decides to separate. Yet whilst parents are quite rightly encouraged to think of their children, little thought is given to the grandparents. House moves, new partners, misunderstandings, blame and family rifts between the adults can all lead to a breakdown in contact between the children and their grandparents. This is often at a great emotional cost. Back in May this year, MPs called for an amendment to the Children Act which would include a child’s right to have a close relationship with members of their extended family.

The law currently states that grandparents must first seek the Court’s permission to apply for an Order to spend time with their grandchildren.

And they are doing so in large numbers. Statistics from the Ministry of Justice show that almost 2,000 applications for Child Arrangements Orders were made by grandparents in 2016. A rise of almost 24% since 2014.

So, what can you do? Below, I set out some of the most frequently asked questions I receive from grandparents who are devastated to have lost contact with their grandchildren.

Do I have the right to see my grandchildren?

There is no automatic right – but don’t lose hope. The law does recognise a child’s right to a family life and this is not necessarily limited to its parents. There are provisions within the law which allow you to ask the Court for the right to see your grandchildren. Many grandparents and wider family members have successfully re-established contact with grandchildren with the assistance of the Family Courts. The significant emotional, psychological and positive benefits to a child of a relationship with grandparents are well-known.

I’m being prevented from seeing my grandchildren – what can I do?

It may feel helpless but even if the relationship has broken down completely and all attempts to re-establish contact are met with parental hostility or a wall of silence, there is action you can take.

Child Arrangements Order

You can apply to the Family Court for an Order allowing you to spend time with your grandchildren. This is known as a Child Arrangements Order. The Order can also set out what other types of contact should take place between you and the children (e.g. video and telephone calls) and how frequently that should happen.

Permission to Proceed

Yet before that application can proceed, the vast majority of grandparents will first need permission from the Court to apply for a Child Arrangements Order. In deciding whether to grant permission, the Court will apply Section 10 (9) of the Children Act 1989. It will consider your application from the perspective of the child, having regard to:

(a) the nature of the proposed application,
(b) your connection with the child, and
(c) whether there is any risk that the proposed application would disrupt the child’s life to such an extent that they may be harmed by it.

Each case is decided on its merits and in most cases, permission is granted. This allows your application for a Child Arrangements Order to proceed to the second stage.

The decision as to whether you can spend time with your grandchildren will ultimately be decided by the Court against a range of statutory factors with the children’s welfare being the Court’s paramount consideration.

Essentially, the question for the Court to decide will be – given all of the circumstances of the case, is it in the children’s best interests to spend time with you?

When is the best time to act?

First, I suggest seeking initial advice from a specialist family law solicitor to discuss your situation. Deciding to take things further is a delicate balancing act, act too soon and it may elevate tension within the family. This is particularly important if the parents are engaged in negotiations or Court proceedings of their own – you don’t want to make things worse. However, a significant delay in resolving the issue can cause emotional harm to both the children and you.

Is there any way of avoiding court proceedings?

It really depends on how damaged the relationship is. It’s difficult because the grandparents are often one step removed from discussions between parents. If the lines of communication are still open, mediation is a helpful tool to meet face-to-face and try and come to an agreement with the assistance of an independent third party. You will, in any event, be required to demonstrate attendance (or an exemption from attending) a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting with a mediator before applying to the Court, so my advice is to consider mediation as early as possible.

Get in touch

We have a team of experienced family law solicitors who have dealt with a range of disputes involving grandchildren and can advise you what steps to take. You can contact them at the details below.

The post Good divorce week: Are grandparents the forgotten victims of divorce? appeared first on Stowe Family Law.

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Going through a divorce or separation as a parent is tough. You are not only dealing with your own roller-coaster of emotions from guilt to anger to sadness, but you also have to tell your children.

We have some great advice here on how and when to tell the kids you are separating.

And once that part is done, you need to work together to maintain consistency in their day-to-day lives and support your children, as you all transition into a different type of family.

Here are five Ms to help you support your children through separation:

Minimise the tension

Where possible, please try and keep a civilised relationship between you both. The conflict between parents is very upsetting for children and places them in a difficult and insecure environment leading to stress and anxiety.

Learn to bite your lip, let somethings go and keep any potential high conflict conversations to times when they are not there.

Make sure you reassure them

Change is unsettling, and children really need to know that you are both there for them and you love them and will both continue to care for them.

This is the most important message that you can give them.

Some children may feel it is their fault you are splitting up or fear that they will stop having a relationship with one parent or with both – make sure you reassure these are not the case.

And don’t forget you can provide reassurance with actions and not just words. Be civil, put a parenting plan in place and stick to it. And if family decisions need to be made, try and make them together.

Maintain routine and boundaries

Children, in fact, most of us need routine. It makes us feel safe, secure and a sense of belonging. So, to try and keep upset to a minimum, where you can, carry on with the usual activities and daily routines like school, clubs, friends and seeing family from both sides.

Things will be different, spending time in two separate houses, but the more normal the routine the better.

Manage your emotions

Of course, you feel awful, if it’s your decision or not, separation is really painful, and you will be battling with fear, anger, sadness and despair. But remember that divorce and separation are adult solutions to adult issues. Children simply do not understand what you are both going through.

It’s natural to feel upset and you must not hide your feelings but if you need to talk, seek support from a friend, family or counsellor. And don’t let your children see the worst of your fears and despair. It will just add to theirs.

Mind what you say to them

They don’t need to know all the details about why you have split. It’s okay to let them know that you are upset and that emotional reactions to what is happening is completely normal but do not expose them to negative emotions or get in a battle with your ex-partner and put the kids in the middle.

And never do anything that will damage their relationship with the other parent. Parental alienation is complex and has extremely far-reaching and damaging effects on all involved. You can read more here.

Some practical advice:

Bringing up children involves lots of decision making. Making these together will be beneficial not just to the children but also to your own relationship.

Parenting Plan

A written plan that is worked on by both parents and covers all the practical issues of parenting.

The plan will help you both to detail all the practical arrangements that need to be put in place to care for your children. By putting this in writing everyone knows what is expected and it helps to define a set routine and boundaries that can then be shared with the children.

You can download a sample parenting plan (sourced from Cafcass)

Wall planner / Google calendar

For younger children, prepare a child-friendly chart for the wall, which can help them understand when they will see their other parent, log activities and appointments.  Dates can be difficult for a child to understand, so a chart helps them to feel a sense of control and add security.

For the more tech-savvy teenagers, Google Calendar is a great starting point as easy for everyone to access and you can share appointments quickly and easily. The whole family can also see at a glance what is happening that day.

Parenting apps

There are hundreds of parenting apps out in the market. Most of them are US based however there are a couple that work globally. Some of the apps are free – others subscription.

2houses – this is mainly based around a Google calendar for the childcare arrangements but has sections for finance and expenses as well as the ability to share medical histories and photo albums.

Smart Coparent – like 2houses with a calendar sharing function, finance/payments, budget, chat/messaging.

A couple of the best from the US

AppClose – free to use, calendar, messaging, able to send requests to partner e.g. I want the kids this day, or we have an appointment someone needs to go to.

Fayr – again very similar to the above, same calendar, messaging and finance/payments functionality

There is no magic wand, no quick fix but with time, patience, acceptance and being mindful of the children’s needs and point of view, you can make the separation process as smooth as it can. And remember, time is a great healer and things will get better.

Get in touch

If you need any advice on divorce, separation and children law issues please do get in touch at the details below.

(Please note we do not endorse any of the apps mentioned in this article.)

The post Good divorce week: helping your children through divorce and separation appeared first on Stowe Family Law.

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“Good Divorce Week” is intended to draw attention to the urgent need to reduce conflict whenever relationships break down.

Inevitably, both parties will suffer.  Some will find it very difficult to cope.  They will feel hurt, rejection, anger, abandoned and fearful of the future.

But we must never forget the children.  The consequences of parents separating can never be underestimated and some children will suffer more than others.

Research undertaken in 2015 produced some very interesting results.

82% of children who had experienced the break-up of their family said they would prefer their parents to separate if they were unhappy.

More than 60% of children interviewed felt their parents had not ensured that they were part of the decision-making process in their parents’ separation or divorce.

Half of young people indicated that they didn’t have any say as to which parent they would live with or where they would live, and the vast majority felt that it was important that children weren’t pressurised into choosing between their parents.

Finally, about half of those children interviewed said they didn’t understand what was happening during their parents’ separation or divorce and 19% felt that it was their fault.

The consequences for young people are alarming, including poor academic performance, abuse of alcohol, experimenting or thinking about experimenting with drugs.

A significant number complained about one parent trying to turn them against the other and involving them in the intricacies of their dispute, and almost 1 in 5 said they completely lost contact with one or more of their grandparents.

Relationship breakdown cannot be avoided.

However, the pain and consequences of separation and divorce can be mitigated.

Children need to see that even if their parents can no longer live together, they can behave sensibly and responsibly and lovingly as parents.  In this way, children will be much more likely to overcome the consequences of their parent’s relationship breaking down and be able to make strong lasting relationships of their own.

Children must never be forgotten.

It should never be assumed that the children are “alright”.

The views of the children are important.

Specially trained mediators can see children in confidence and, if they agree, report back to their parents what they have said.  This, in turn, can help parents make sensible, informed decisions about what is best for the children in the future.

I was one of the first solicitors to be recognised as an accredited specialist by the Solicitors Family Law Association (now Resolution). I am also a qualified mediator with the Family Mediators Association and able to undertake direct consultation with children.

I am also a family arbitrator and very recently became one of the very first family arbitrators able to make decisions about children – for example, which parent they should live with and how much time they should spend with the other, as well as issues relating to their health and education.

If you need any support or advice on managing divorce and children, please contact me at the details below.

GRAHAM COY

27 November 2018

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