Consideration for Children in Separation

Published 28 January 2020

When parents separate it is often the children who suffer most. It is a stressful situation that requires re-adjustment and adaptation to the new ‘norm’. Unfortunately, separation can lead to lasting effects on the health and welfare of parents and children alike.

Children will often feel confused, isolated and alienated when the separation has not been addressed properly with them. In our experience, we find that children are often very resilient to the change if it is addressed in the right way, and their wishes and feelings are taken into consideration.

It is key that parents do not allow the children to become causalities and collateral damage from the breakdown of the relationship. Many parents can navigate contact arrangements between them, however in some situations this is not so easily agreed. We find that mediation can really help families to allow the parents to discuss a suitable way forward. If this is not possible, then an application to the Family Proceedings Court may prove necessary. There are different applications that can be made such as Residence Order, Contact Order, Prohibited Steps Order, Specific Issue Order, Declaration of Parentage and Parental Responsibility Order.

The main criteria the Judge will consider throughout proceedings is the welfare of the child and it is widely known that contact is the right of the child and contact should occur if it is safe and appropriate to do so.

Throughout the Court process, a Court Children’s Officer can be appointed to the case. A CCO is a Court appointed Social Worker who is tasked with speaking to the child to ascertain their wishes and feelings. There are some main areas in which the Court would determine it is prudent to involve a CCO namely:

  • Private law matters such as divorce and separation where parents or carers can’t agree on arrangements for their children
  • Public law proceedings such as care proceedings where social services have serious concerns about the safety or welfare of a child

The CCO can then in turn provide the Court with recommendations. The age of the child will determine how much weight can be placed on the child’s wishes because their understanding will change as they get older.

A child can feel divided between their parents after a split. Their emotions will be difficult for them to deal with leading to confusion, anxiety, anger or despair to name a few. This may have a visible impact by becoming withdrawn, clingy, challenging and difficult to manage. This may filter into their schooling and social lives. It is not uncommon for children to bed-wet, play up or be aggressive and seeking out additional assistance to help the child deal with their emotions should be a priority.

It is imperative that all adults put the children first including the parents and professionals involved. At MKB Law our Family Law solicitors are always mindful of how the children are treated because there are long term repercussions resulting from the experiences the children face. We are at hand to provide a child focused service when you and your family need us most.

This article is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for professional legal advice.

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