Good Divorce Week: Making sure children always comes first.

Irina Baranova

Today is the last day of Good Divorce Week, a Resolution initiative which this year is providing free resources to parents who are going through a divorce or separation.

Resolution is a community of 6,500 family justice professionals who believe that a non-confrontational approach to family law issues produces better outcomes for separating families and their children. All of the family lawyers in our team are members of Resolution.

Research from Resolution released this week shows two-thirds of separated parents say they lacked access to advice about how to put their children first during family separation.

The pandemic has put family relationships under immense strain, and children and parents can find the separation process extremely difficult. Resolution’s free Parenting through Separation Guide contains practical advice to help parents put their children first during a divorce or separation.

Children always cope better where there is no long term parental conflict and we know that parents who are well supported in the early stages of a separation are more likely to make decisions in line with their children’s needs.

The guide covers a range of topics including:

  • Tips for communicating with your ex-partner and the children;
  • How to recognise concerning behaviour in children; and
  • The importance of self-care for parents – we can only look after our children if we look after ourselves, just like putting our own oxygen masks on before our child’s on a plane.

Making sure your child is being heard

One of the biggest challenges for separating parents is knowing how much a child should be involved in decision-making.

The guide categorises parenting decisions as either red, amber or green. Red decisions are significant ones, such as where the children will live and the school they should go to. These decisions should be made with your co-parent. Conversely, green decisions, like the food they eat, can be made with the involvement of the children.

What happens when it is impossible to agree?

While it is vital to reduce conflict and maintain good relationships, there will inevitably be times when it is just not possible for parents to agree. The guide encourages parents to explore options such as mediation, solicitor negotiation, collaborative law and arbitration all of which can help them reach agreement without the need to go to court.

If these options are not viable then the court process remains an option, especially for decisions about children’s living arrangements or specific issues such as moving abroad schooling or medical care.

In a court process, the most important consideration is of course the child’s welfare. The guide helpfully summarises the ‘welfare checklist’ which comes from the Children Act 1989, a key piece of legislation in this area which a judge will use to help them reach a decision.

The checklist consists of a range of factors, including the ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child, their emotional, physical and educational needs and the ability of the parents to meet the child’s needs.

It is important to remember that there are a number of ways that people can reach outcomes that work for their family. Not all of the options for making a decision will be right for everybody, and it may be that a combination of approaches works well.

Although co-parenting requires hard work and is not always easy, the guide and Resolution website provides practical advice on co-parenting in a way which allows both children and parents to feel comfortable and secure.

You can view the guide here.

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