Should you stay together for the children?

Category: Children, Divorce, Family

This is a difficult question and one that does not have a universal answer.

Whether it is better for children to live in one home as a family, but where mum and dad are unhappy in their relationship, or whether it is better to deal with the ending of the relationship and then share time between two happier households will depend on a number of factors, most importantly how the relationship between the parents is handled after it has broken down and whether the children are exposed to animosity and anger within the family home.

Parents who are able to continue to co-parent effectively, supportively and with respect for one another in one household following the breakdown of their own relationship may find that their children benefit from the maintenance of a single family home with both parents present. However, where the animosity between parents becomes a factor that is affecting the children, the benefits of maintaining a single family home are soon outweighed by the harm caused to the children living in such an environment.

What Do The Experts Say?

A number of parenting experts consider that the major risk of staying together for the sake of the children is that the children can be unintentionally exposed to the anger, animosity, frustration and pain that arises from a failed relationship. If this carries on for an extended period, it will increase the harm that the children suffer and will also create a parenting ‘blueprint’ of how families behave that may be carried on into future generations.  Parents who cannot deal civilly with one another during conflict or who contradict one another’s parenting decisions, model an ineffective and potential damaging parenting style. 

In addition, parents caught up in the conflict of a broken relationship can become so wrapped up in those issues that the physical, emotional and psychological needs of their children can be neglected.

Research Shows..

Parents will frequently tell professionals that their children are unaware of the extent of the animosity in their household, however research has demonstrated that a parent’s perception of what their children are aware of often vastly underestimates what their children have actually seen, heard and experienced.  In family psychological assessments, children frequently talk about lying in bed, feeling sad and frightened listening to their parents arguing. The parents of those same children frequently express the view in their own assessment interviews that their children are unaware of the arguments, as they occur only when they are asleep.

So What Is Right For You?

Ultimately, it is a decision for the parents, based on whether they can manage their broken relationship in a way that protects the children from suffering direct or indirect harm.

If the honest answer is that the children are being or are likely to be affected by the ongoing situation in the family home, then the time may have come for a separation.  Handled well, perhaps with a united front when explaining the situation to the children, this may be the best outcome for all involved.

How Can We Help?

The involvement of solicitors may actually help this situation.  Rather than drawing battle lines, a Collaborative Lawyer or a lawyer who is a member of Resolution will be able to help you to understand the legal issues arising from a separation in a way that does not create animosity or make court proceedings a foregone conclusion.  On the contrary, a Resolution lawyer or Collaborative Lawyer will help you to reach an outcome that is in the best interest of the whole family.

At Nash & Co, all our family lawyers are members of Resolution.  We want to make difficult situations better for all involved. Partner and Head of Department, Eleanor Barber, is also a trained Collaborative Lawyer.

If you feel that your relationship has broken down and you need some advice on what to do next,  contact Nash & Co on  01752 664444 and book a no obligation fixed fee initial appointment.