Here at Gregorian Emerson Family Law Solicitors we have many years of expertise in the field of child law advice Guildford and are well placed to offer you excellent, personal advice pertaining to your case. In our experience no-one enters into a marriage intending to divorce a few years down the line, but it is an unfortunate statistic that around 1 in 3 couples will end up doing so.
Many of these couples will have had children and they will obviously be caught up in the divorce process too. It is really important that you take the time to both talk to and listen to their fears and concerns about the situation.
Telling your children of an impending divorce can be a very emotional conversation and is something that you should not rush into without a little planning ahead.
If at all possible it is always better to have both parents present for this, as it shows stability and unity to the children and that you can communicate amicably together to make arrangements for their future.
You should ensure there is no time restriction set on this conversation and that there is plenty of time for the children to ask questions throughout and also for several hours afterwards when things are sinking in.
It is incredibly important that you make sure the children know they are loved by both of you and that they are in no way responsible fo the split, as children are very good at blaming themselves for their parents divorce.
Tell your children the truth about the divorce too, but in an age appropriate manner and obviously in a simplistic manner where necessary - you can tell them that Mummy and Daddy no longer love each other, or have grown apart, but emphasise that they are still very much loved by the both of you and that any decisions you make on their behalf will always have their best interests at heart
Be honest about the changes that will be made, things like one parent moving out the marital home, a possible house move, a school change, basically anything that may affect their day to day lives. They will need to know that contact will still be maintained between them and a parent that is moving out, so let them know of any schedules you have already planned between the two of you.
Be patient with them; you will find yourself having the same conversation several times with them over the coming weeks and even months as they try to process and understand the information you are giving them. Be prepared for questions, lots and lots of them and most of them will be ones you haven't planned for too!
Once the children have been told of the divorce it is important that both parents still maintain previous boundaries set in place. Children need boundaries and to know what is and isn't acceptable behaviour, so to bend the rules at this time, as you don't want to be seen as being too strict, will actually have a negative impact on them and can lead to behavioural problems in th future. Keep to your routines where possible and be as consistent in your parenting as you can be. A conversation between the parents can be helpful here, so that the same rules are maintained in the 2 different households and that one isn't deliberately 'bending the rules'.
Let your children have room to express themselves through this too, as they need to feel their voices matter when decisions are made on their behalf (obviously this is more for older children than babies or toddlers) It can be frustrating for them to be told their opinions don't matter and that they have no say in decisions made. They need to have space to voice their concerns and opinions and to not be judged for them. Be prepared for them to be angry with you both and have concerns over things like schooling etc, especially if they are facing a school change which they may not be happy with. You should keep in mind that your children did not ask for any of these changes in their lives and they have a right to discuss these and any possible repercussions with you, even if they need to say things which you may not wish to hear or to have to answer.
You may find that your children start to exhibit behaviours previously unseen - many will 'act up' especially if they feel they are not getting sufficient attention. This behaviour can be either in school, at home, or in both, but should send you warning signals that they are not dealing with the situation very well and need some extra attention and interaction with one or both of you. Finding things to do together is an excellent way to help them, even something as simple as going for a walk, or doing a jigsaw, basically anything non threatening where they feel they are spending quality time with you is to be encouraged. Divorce can be extremely confusing and unsettling for children, whatever age and sometimes these behaviours are the only way they can deal with these strange emotions - so don't spend time berating them for them, rather take the time to deal with the issue and ensure you heap praise on them when they do something good. As experienced child law advice Guildford lawyers we are well placed to help you with any issues you may be facing, or any concerns you may have. We will always be open and honest with you in our discussions and ensure you know all paths available to you, before any legally binding decisions have to be made.
Children also pick up on negativity very quickly so you need to be mindful of how you speak about each other in front of your children. Even though you no longer love each other your children still love both of you and you will not be helping them to deal with your divorce if you are both speaking ill of each other in your childrens presence. They hear much more than you are aware of, phone calls, chats with friends etc and will often be listening when you don't realise they can hear. In the same vein if you and your ex-partner need to have a discussion and there is any chance it may become heated or combative, then take it away fom the children and hold it somewhere on neutral territory where you can't be overheard. It is also vital that you do NOT use your children as pawns in an acrimonious divorce and ask them to pass messages onto one another as a 'middle-man', or use them as a sounding board to discuss your thoughts and feelings on the divorce. This is a particularly damaging situation to put them in and is making them feel that they need to take sides between you, something that should actively be discouraged! They will be dealing with their own emotions - they do not need to be dealing with yours too.
Whilst you are finalising the details of your divorce it is important that regular contact is maintained between the children and a parent that has moved out. They will benefit greatly from this and it is good if this contact can be used to demonstrate to them that both parents can still interact calmly when dealing with issues surrounding the children.
And lastly, allow your children to grieve the divorce. They have lost the life they once had, the family unit and a parent leaving the marital home so they need to be allowed to adjust to their new circumstances and way of life. Help them to express their emotions and acknowledge that you understand their feelings, and make sure that you are always available for them to speak to about any concerns they have, whether now or months/years down the road.
Based in Guildford and Cobham, Surrey and Central London. If you have any child law isuues we are here to help and look forward to your call. Please contact us on 01483 826 470.