#ChildrenFirst

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It’s Resolution’s National Dispute Resolution Week, and this year the focus is on putting children first during family breakdown. We thought we’d take a look at some of the key findings from the research they have commissioned on how families are dealing with divorce and separation today, and think about the best ways to protect and support children through the process.

For the uninitiated, Resolution is an organisation of 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals in England and Wales who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters. Resolution also campaigns for improvements to the family justice system. All of us at CFLP are Resolution members, and are proud to support their initiatives and campaigns. We are not just members but are actively involved: Adam is currently the Chair of the local Resolution group in Cambridge and West Suffolk, with Tricia as its Treasurer; Simon chairs the national Resolution Children Committee, and both Gail and Sue have been involved at the upper levels of the organisation at various points in the past.

Resolution commissioned a poll of young people aged 14-22 with experience of parental separation. On the plus side, half of all the young people surveyed agreed that their parents put their needs first during their separation or divorce. Although of course we would like this to be higher, this figure indicates that the message about positive parenting during these difficult times is getting through, at least to half of parents.

The survey also reports that 62% of the young people indicated that their parents did not include them in the decision-making process about their separation or divorce. Consulting children without putting any decision-making burden on them is of course a difficult balance to strike, as shown by the 88% of those surveyed who said it is important to make sure children do not feel like they have to choose between their parents. Most experts agree that giving children age-appropriate and relevant information during the process of divorce, and trying to look at the situation from each child’s individual point of view to assess what they need most, and how best to support them, makes all the difference to the way that children experience divorce and separation.

The results of the survey support the main advice Resolution shares in its Parenting Charter, which sets out what children should be able to expect from their parents during a divorce. We’re particularly proud of The Charter as the Children Committee, with Simon at the helm, brought it together. You can download a copy here . It promotes children’s rights to:

  • be at the centre of any decisions made about their lives
  • feel and be loved and cared for by both parents
  • know and have contact with both sides of their families, including any siblings who may not live with them, as long as they are safe
  • a childhood, including freedom from the pressures of adult concerns such as financial worries

Yesterday, our Simon and other senior members of Resolution went to Parliament to call for the Government to share the Charter with all divorcing parents. The event also saw the launch of a central online advice guide developed by Resolution to help divorcing parents manage their relationship with their children and with each other during separation. It was hosted by Caroline Nokes MP and was well-attended by members of parliament and parliamentary workers.

Resolution chair Jo Edwards asked MPs and influencers to support the Resolution ethos and work with the organization to reduce the impact of divorce conflict on children by supporting out of court dispute resolution and introducing no fault divorce. In response, family Justice Minister Caroline Dinenage MP spoke about her commitment to promoting lower-conflict options for divorcing couples and the need to facilitate the inclusion of children in the divorce process. As we write this, the Chancellor is about to reveal his spending review. We are realistic about the prospect of an injection of funding into family justice to support the Minister’s stated aspirations, but at least the will appears to be there, and that’s a start.

The main thing to remember for parents entering the process of family breakdown is that there are choices available to you that will protect your children. If it’s possible to do so, keeping matters out of court is one way that is almost guaranteed to shelter them from additional stress. We’re not saying that any of it is easy, but we can tell you that it is worth it in the long run with the aim of raising happy, healthy, well-adjusted children all the way to adulthood, to their own families and beyond. If you’d like us to advise and support you during the process of divorce or separation, please give us a call on 01223 443333 and make an appointment to see Adam, Tricia, Gail, Sue or Simon.