When a relationship breaks down, emotions can run high, particularly if you have children. It can be difficult to prioritise the children’s needs when you’re trying to cope with the divorce or separation yourself.
However, it’s really important that you try and agree arrangements for the children with your ex-partner to decide what will work best for them. You might want to get help from a Family Mediator if you think those discussions will get difficult. A Mediator is an independent, impartial person who will help you both talk about what you want to do and find a workable solution for your family. Research shows that parents who keep talking in a positive and future-focussed way after they separate, help their children cope far better with the new arrangements, than those who get stuck in conflict.
Since April 2014, you have to find out about mediation before you’re allowed to ask the Court for help. If Mediation doesn’t work or isn’t appropriate in your case, the Court can make orders to decide where the children will live and when they will spend time with each parent, called “Child Arrangements Orders”. The Court will encourage you to try and reach an agreement with your ex-partner and may ask a family court advisor from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) to talk to you and the children to help the Court decide what is in the children’s best interests.
Involving the Court should always be the last resort. Whilst a Judge will do their best to understand you,your children and what is right for them, Court proceedings can be very damaging to parents’ ability to communicate with each other about their children, despite everyone’s best efforts.
So what can you do to ease some of the tension for your children if you decide to separate?
- Focus on keeping a good, positive line of communication open with your ex-partner – don’t use your children as the messenger or burden them with your fears or worries.
- Emails can be a helpful tool to let each other know important information like school events, parents’ evenings and the like. Keep emotions out of your messages.
- Let the children tell you how they are feeling. They will have questions about the future and it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the answer; just show them you’ve heard them.
- Encourage the children to have a positive relationship with your ex-partner – don’t criticise them in front of the children.
For more information, contact Helen Cankett, Partner in the Family team at BPE Solicitors .
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.