Communication is key for separating couples
What happens to the children when parents separate is often the most emotive issue. The realisation that, in the near future, your children won’t be waking up and going to sleep in the same house as you every day can be very painful for parents to think about. It is not surprising that parents can find it hard to be rational and reasonable when trying to reach an agreement about where the children will live and what the arrangements will be. The impact on the children whilst the parents are working things out can be very negative and long lasting unless managed carefully. Emotions will be running high and children will pick up on any conflict very easily.
Research around the impact on children is now well established. It is accepted that when children become aware of conflict between their parents, they feel stuck in the middle and it can have a negative effect on their self-esteem. It is not uncommon for children to feel responsible, protective over one or both parents and powerless, which can lead to deep upset and anger.
There are so many resources now available to help separating parents in getting it right and taking steps to co-parent.
The Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP) is a course, “designed to help separated parents, or those who have responsibility for children, to better understand and respond differently to conflict and communication”.
Parents won’t attend a SPIP with the other parent but there will be other parents on the course so that experiences can be shared. My clients have largely found it hugely helpful to them as it:
- challenges parents to consider the emotional effect of separation and some positive options for moving forward.
- considers what children need and the impact of conflict on children.
- explores parent communication and how to react appropriately when under stress.
Parents in private children proceedings are generally directed to take part in this course as a first step in the court proceedings. However, any parent can self-refer themselves to attend. A directory of providers are listed here https://www.cafcass.gov.uk/grown-ups/parents-and-carers/directory-of-providers/.
Cafcass ‘Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service’ effectively represent the children in family law proceedings and will advise the Court about what they think is best for them. Their website has a large amount of really useful information for parents and children.
One piece of advice that Cafcass give is that trying to communicate with your coparent by email and text message can be tricky and often misinterpreted leading to unnecessary conflict and upset. In recent years, various parenting apps have been designed to try and make communication more effective. MyFamilyWizard and Talking Parents are often recommended and can make exchanging information and making arrangements far simpler.
The family courts are currently flooded with private children law cases as well as care proceedings. Given the urgent nature of care proceedings and the safeguarding issues they involve, private children disputes around the division of time or whether there should be shared care, when there are no safeguarding issues, will not get the same level of attention. There are not the resources to facilitate this and, in the absence of real safeguarding concerns, parents are being told that Court applications should be a last resort. As such, these additional resources can be a real help to parents in co-parenting in the best interests of the children.
For help and advice on how to support your children through a separation or any other family law matters, contact Jemma Jones.
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of articles only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.