What are the effects of divorce on children?

Divorce is now very common and applications have continued since 6 April 2022 where we saw the introduction of the new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2022, with 7,394 divorces and 54 dissolutions in 2022. It is important to consider the impact Divorce and Separation can have on children and that children can suffer if care is not taken.

Topics to be answered in this article

Emotional and behavioural issues

Children go through many issues and emotions outside divorce, and it can have an impact on a child’s mental health. Some areas where problems may arise include: 

  • Feelings of guilt
  • Children may become withdrawn and disinterested in society and the things they used to enjoy
  • Unusual or uncharacteristic behaviours such as depression, anger and destructive behaviour
  • A change of routine and a change in the family’s dynamic may impact a child’s performance at school

How to reduce stress for your children

This can depend on lots of factors, including the age of the children. Everyone is different, will react in different ways, and require different levels of support. How best to reduce stress for your child will depend on your circumstances, however, you can consider some of the points below:

DO

Be open and talk: Separation is a difficult concept for children to process and extra time and care should be taken to talk to your children about the situation. You can consider how to best support your child and analyse what support and help your child may need to manage their emotions and feelings. 

Reassure them it’s not their fault: Children can feel they are to blame for their parents’ separation. It is important to recognise how your children may be feeling, and reassure and support them during this change.

Make quality time to show them love: Both parents should spend time with the children to reduce stress, feelings of guilt and show children that their relationship with their parents will not be changing. 

Try to minimise change away from things impacted by divorce: You should exercise patience with children and encourage them to continue with their routine as much as possible, regardless of the changes they may be facing at home. 

DON’T

Ask your children to take sides: Children should feel they can continue to have a relationship with both their parents and should not be caught in the middle of animosity. 

Ask your children to spy on the other parent: Whilst you should be open and honest with your children, you should not ask them to become involved in the separation or your own personal feelings towards the other parent. Children should be allowed to feel comfortable with both their parents. 

Criticise the other parent: This can significantly impact the children’s relationship with you and with their other parent. 

Belittle any questions or concerns they have: Children should feel safe and supported during what can be a confusing time for them. They should be allowed to express their feelings in supportive environment to help reduce stress and anxiety.

Tools and techniques to minimise adverse effects

There are different ways you can address a separation and a divorce agreement can be reached. One action you could take to minimise adverse effects is engaging in mediation to come to a consensual child care, or financial agreement.  A mediator is an impartial, professionally trained individual who can assist you resolve matters amicably and negotiate further arrangements regarding child arrangements and finances on divorce. Engaging with mediation could reduce animosity and help diffuse any negative feeling may have, in turn, reducing the stress and anxiety of children. A consensual agreement can be agreed promptly, so the children understand and can become settled in their new routine quickly. 

Agree on a fair parenting plan that is best for your children. Whilst a parenting plan is not automatically legally binding (but can be made so via a court order), it is a good starting point for agreeing contact arrangements. It can help narrow any issues between parents and encourage a child focused approach which could later be incorporated into a legally binding court order. 

Similarly, you can prepare a financial agreement. This can be prepared through a Separation Agreement, which whilst not automatically legally binding, can be incorporated into a legally binding court order. A financial agreement can help both parents to support the children.

How can Goughs help?

Goughs have experienced and specialist solicitors and advisors who can assist you in all areas of your separation to help you navigate through the next steps. Get in contact with us today to speak to a solicitor or advisor who can give you tailored advice and help protect your child’s best interests.

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Author Bio

Abbie Winters

The ability to assist others during one of the most difficult periods of their life is something that drew me towards a career in law and is an aspect of the job that I find very rewarding.

I started working at Wiltshire based law firms in 2019 and spent a lot of time in family departments gaining experience early on in my career.

I enjoy working closely with families. I feel extremely passionate and committed to working with my clients to find a solution that is in the best interest of the child, at what can be a very emotional time. 

Outside of the office, I am a keen horse rider. I compete in dressage, show jumping and cross country at a regional level on my horse, Hector.

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