The Cost of Divorce and Separation on Radio 4’s Bringing Up Britain with Mariella Frostrup – Children Must Come First Says Pictons

The statistics are shocking – a third of children are likely to experience the break down of their parents’ relationship before they reach the age of 16. No matter what reasons are behind the split, it is vitally important to make sure that the break up is managed in a way that limits the distress to the children. This is never easy when the parents are likely to be experiencing the emotional fallout too.

Danielle Messenger, a family solicitor at award winning and leading regional law firm Pictons says “The programme on Radio 4 really highlighted a very complicated situation for everyone concerned and although it’s so common, everyone’s case is individual. In unhappy relationships we witness that couples staying together for the sake of the children is not an answer and research by Irwin Mitchell revealed that a quarter of all parents are waiting until the children are old enough to end their relationship. Of course we work with a lot of family break downs but we also have qualified Mediators who can frequently resolve a lot of issues that enable the couple not to have to go the expense or further distress of going to court.

“We always advise parents to be honest with the children on relationship breakdowns because even if nothing is said the children usually know something is wrong. This means telling them the truth gently without denigrating the other parent. We recommend that people rely on family and their friends to vent any anger or upset they may feel towards the other parent as it’s essential that the children don’t absorb a poisonous atmosphere at home and neither should they have to take sides.

“We encourage parents to let their children ask questions. Even if you can’t provide all the answers immediately they need some reassurance that you are in control of the situation. It’s important to explain that things won’t be the same, but however different it will be they will be taken care of by both parents and they will be ok. It’s also essential to let them know that both of you are going to be okay as well – parental distress will upset any child and make them feel protective, when in this situation it’s the children who need protecting as much as you possibly can.”

Arrangements between both parties should always be in the best interests of the children and not aimed at scoring points or punishing the other parent. It is also important to introduce any new relationships sensitively. The children may not have got used to the idea of their parents living separately yet and remember that arrangements for the children can evolve . What works for a 6 year old may not be workable for a teenager.

Danielle concludes “If you can’t sit down together to resolve matters, consider mediation as an alternative to Court proceedings. Remember that the Court process is adversarial in nature. This means the focus is on proving your case. Parties may feel like winners and losers but this is the wrong setting for families whose priority should be to preserve ongoing relationships, if only for the sake of the children. In the family department at Pictons we are all committed to resolving disputes in an amicable and non confrontational manner.”