November 2015

Don’t stay together for our sake, say children

That’s the conclusion from new research that found that around eight out of ten children and young people with experience of parental separation or divorce would prefer their parents to split up if they are unhappy, rather than stay together.

The poll of young people aged 14-22 with experience of parental separation, which was carried out by ComRes on behalf of family law organisation Resolution and supported by Consensus Collaboration Scotland (CCS), has revealed fresh insights from children about the levels of involvement and amount of information they would like during their parents’ divorce.

  • Key findings from the research show that children and young people want greater involvement in decision-making during the divorce process:
  • Half of young people (50%) indicate that they did not have any say as to which parent they would live with or where they would live (49%) following their parents’ separation or divorce. Importantly, 88% say it is important to make sure children do not feel like they have to choose between their parents
  • Around half (47%) say that they didn’t understand what was happening during their parents’ separation or divorce
  • Two in ten (19%) agree that they sometimes felt like the separation or divorce was their fault.
  • When asked what they’d most like to have changed about their parents’ divorce, 31% of young people said they would have liked their parents not to be horrible about each other to them, and 30% said they would have liked their parents to understand what it felt like to be in the middle of the process.
  • Positively, Resolution’s research also showed that many parents are handling their separation admirably. 50% of young people agreed that their parents put their needs first during their separation or divorce.

Cath Karlin is a founding member of the Consensus Collaboration Scotland network, and a partner at BTO Solicitors. Speaking about the new findings, she said:

“This research confirms what family lawyers have known for a long time- it is far better for both the parents and children to remove themselves from relationships that are unhappy. In extreme cases, staying in a toxic relationship can go on to affect children in later life. It can also normalise for them unacceptable behaviours which can go on to affect how they go on to conduct themselves in their own adult relationships.

“This study also confirms that it is not the divorce or separation itself that causes children trauma- it is the way that it is conducted that can affect them adversely.

Bringing children into the dispute, providing them with too much information, asking them to take sides and litigating over them is what makes separation and divorce traumatic for children.

“It can be easy for parents who are experiencing their own pain on the break -up of a relationship to sometimes forget the needs of their children. Parents can also make the mistake of viewing their children as a “package” thus failing to recognise that children at different ages and stages experience the divorce in different ways.

“Members of Consensus Collaboration Scotland are trained to work with parents to help them transition from being together to separate in a respectful and dignified manner. We help them find ways to work together to shelter their children as much as possible from the separation. In turn, they are then able to co parent more effectively and their children remain secure and happy.”

For more information about collaborative practice, please email

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