Yael Selig Consultant
Supporting your children through your divorce
As widely documented in the press, multi-award winning singer Adele recently broke her silence on her divorce. In an interview with Vogue, she said that her latest album was an attempt to explain the divorce to her nine-year-old son for when he is older. Specifically, she wanted to explain to him why she “voluntarily chose to dismantle his entire life in the pursuit of her own happiness”.
Divorce is a challenging time for all involved, in particular where there are younger children in the picture. As Adele has alluded to, feelings of guilt and remorse are all common emotions for the spouse who initiated the divorce. Yael Selig and Lara Myers, family law specialists at Ince, provide their recommendations for those seeking to divorce or separate when children are involved.
Breaking the news to your children
Breaking the news that your marriage has ended to your loved ones is always difficult, and is something that ideally requires a sensitive, considered and joint approach. Children are particularly vulnerable to the impact of divorce and separation. There is now much greater insight and awareness available to professionals, which is an area where we trained in specifically. Part of the support mechanism can include counselling for the parents themselves and identifying how they can best support their children.
The approach taken should be tailored to the child’s age and any specific needs they may have. We advise clients to use age appropriate language, keep it brief and not divulge the reasons why you are divorcing, or apportion blame to either party. Above all, reassure your children that even though it is inevitably going to be a challenging and upsetting time that you both still love them. Children may often seek to blame themselves for the separation and that must obviously always be dealt with directly by the parents who should take time to reassure them as to why that is absolutely not the case. Keeping the channels of communication open between both parents and children is vital. Parents are encouraged to ensure that they listen to their child’s questions or concerns.
Once the news has been broken to the children, the parents must strive to do all they can to co-parent effectively going forward. It is essential that there is clear communication regarding the welfare of the children, that there is consistent parenting in both households and each parent respects the other (regardless of how much time they each spend with the child).
Dealing with parental alienation
Sadly, the concept of ‘parental alienation’ has become a term that is all too common amongst family lawyers. It is usually a combination of both adult and child behaviour/attitudes that lead to a child apparently rejecting or resisting spending time with one parent. For example, a parent may frequently badmouth or belittle the other parent in front of the child; limit the time the other parent is able to spend with the child; forbid the child from talking about them; or create an impression that the other parent does not love or like the child.
The Family Court takes parental alienation extremely seriously and it is not tolerated. That is for the very simple reason that it is so dreadfully damaging to the child. As practitioners, we encourage parents to ensure that the children have positive and quality contact and time spent with each parent.
According to the press, Adele and her former husband have used mediation in order to resolve financial matters and custody of their son. Mediation can often provide a less stressful and more collaborative way to reach an agreement following a divorce. It means that all parties can retain control and make decisions about what is best for themselves and the family, rather than handing over this power to the Court.
There is always plenty to consider when a divorce appears to be a possibility, and it is wise that children are at the forefront of all decisions taken from the outset. We always ensure that children are a priority feature of our discussions with clients from the very beginning and throughout.
If any of the above issues have affected you or your family, get in touch with a member of our Family team.