Putting the Kids First: Separation & Divorce

Not every relationship works out, sometimes things happen, or the distance between two people simply becomes too great to overcome. The breakdown of a relationship is devastating anyway, but it can be even more so when there are children involved. Regardless of the circumstances of the separation, the children should always be the priority for both parties. Children have the tendency to internalise these experiences and blame themselves, which can affect them for the rest of their lives. As a parent, of course, you want to do right by your children, so let’s take a closer look.

Helping the Children to Deal with the News

Breaking the news of an impending separation or divorce to your kids is a heart-wrenching experience for the most part. The very first thing that you should do is to make sure your child knows that it has nothing to do with them or anything that they have done, that they are still loved by both parents and that regardless of the living situation, you will still be a family. Children appreciate honesty, so try to be as truthful as you can whilst taking into account their age and level of understanding.

After you have told them, you should then try to keep the children’s routines as consistent as possible. For example, if one parent has moved out of the family home, but that parent has always done the school run, then they should still do it. You should also make sure that your children feel like they can ask questions or share their feelings with you. They need to know that it is okay to feel upset, confused, sad or angry, or whatever it is that they are feeling.

Parental Responsibilities

The parental responsibility could change depending on where you live. Generally, the mother is automatically assigned parental responsibility at birth. The father tends to have parental responsibility if they are listed on the birth certificate or if they were married to the mother at the time of the birth. If this hasn’t been the case for the father, then they can request to be put on the birth certificate or prove paternity in order to be recognised; there are a number of paternity tests available, including a prenatal paternity test offered by AlphaBiolabs. If both partners do indeed have parental responsibility, then they both have a duty of care for the child until they reach adulthood.

Contact & Custody

Unless it isn’t in the best interest of the child, they do have the right to a relationship with both parents – and, in fact, children who do have contact with both parents do tend to thrive more and do better. There are a few different ways in which contact and custody can be arranged. Firstly, there are contact arrangements which detail the primary caregiver or which parent the child is going to live with and how much contact that they have with the secondary or non-resident parent. They tend to be somewhat informal and decided by the parents; set up without the need for a court.

If the parents struggle to agree to a contact arrangement, then there is family mediation which again can be done without the need for a court. A mediator is assigned, and they are trained to help you to reach an agreement while remaining impartial. Sometimes, however, mediation also doesn’t work either because someone refuses to attend or because the parents still can’t come to an agreement.

If that is the case, then a child arrangement order is often seen as a last resort. A parent can apply for a child arrangement order via the courts. Although before doing this, the options above should have been explored. The parent will also need to have sought legal advice. The order tends to outline who the child is going to live with, who else is allowed contact and the conditions that need to be met regarding that contact.

If the matter does escalate to the courts, then they do take into account a number of things when deciding on child contact. The factors are things like the risks faced by the child, their needs, their personal circumstances, the parents and their abilities, what effect changing the child’s circumstances could cause, and finally, they do also take into account the child’s wishes too.

A child cannot be forced to have any contact with their non-resident parent, but the primary parent does have a legal responsibility to meet the court order. Obviously, the wishes of the child are important, but it is often beneficial to encourage contact – unless it puts the child at risk, of course. If the order is breached, then the parent responsible can be taken to court. Lastly, grandparents do not usually have any rights to contact, but if the parents are in agreement, then contact can be made.

To Sum Up

Some parents do fall into the trap of taking out their frustrations and hurt feelings on the other parent through the child. Children are also incredibly perceptive, and they pick up on everything. This is why you should be careful around them. After all, just because they were not a good partner to you doesn’t mean that they won’t be a good parent to your children. Being a good parent means always putting their needs ahead of your own.