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Divorcing parents; don’t forget to put children first

New research carried out by ComRes on behalf of family law organisation Resolution and supported by Consensus Collaboration Scotland (CCS) shows that an overwhelming majority (82%) of the young people surveyed said that, despite their feelings at the time, they felt it was ultimately better that their parents divorced rather than stay together unhappily.

Asked what advice they would give divorcing parents, one young person said, “Don’t stay together for a child’s sake, better to divorce than stay together for another few years and divorce on bad terms”; while another suggests children “will certainly be very upset at the time but will often realise, later on, that it was for the best.”

Shaun George is a member of the Consensus Collaboration Scotland network, and sits on their national committee. Mr George is also head of Scotland’s largest team of family lawyers at Brodies LLP, and is based in their Aberdeen office. Speaking about the new findings, he said:

“This new information shows that, despite the commonly held view that it’s better to stay together “for the sake of the kids”, most children would prefer that their parents divorce rather than remain in an unhappy relationship.

“Being exposed to conflict and uncertainty about the future is most damaging for children, not the fact of divorce itself. This means it is essential that parents act responsibly, to shelter their children from adult disagreements and take appropriate action to communicate with their children throughout this process, and make them feel involved in key decisions, such as where they will live after the divorce.

“There is a strong network of solicitors and other collaborative professionals in the North East of Scotland with considerable experience of conducting divorce cases successfully using collaborative practice. We support parents to choose an out of court divorce method, such as mediation or collaborative practice. This helps parents to maintain control over the divorce and ensure their children’s needs are, and remain, the central focus.”

The research also suggested that although young people’s relationships with their mother and wider family members are more likely to stay the same or improve after divorce, alarmingly, their relationship with their father is likely to worsen:

  • 45% said their relationship with their mother had improved (against 14% who said it worsened)
  • 19% said their relationship with their father had improved (against 46% who said it worsened)

Parenting expert and author Sue Atkins says:

“Children want to feel involved and empowered with relevant information about their parents’ divorce and what it means for them. They also want to see their parents behaving responsibly, such as to not argue in front of them.

“As the long distance parent, Dads must work hard to maintain their relationship with their child. They may feel angry that this task falls on their shoulders since they may not have initiated the divorce in the first place and it’s easy to feel like a victim and spend their time and energy blaming their ex. But I don’t advise that as its far better to focus on what you can do to stay involved and active in your child’s life. Being a long distance parent doesn’t mean that a dad has to automatically disappear from their child’s life. It just requires some creativity and cooperation to pull it off successfully.”

For more information about collaborative practice, please email info@consensus-scotland.com