Divorce from a child's perspective - what can we learn?

23rd June 2021
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Being able to understand what children go through when parents are involved in a separation is a hugely important part of working in family law. The wellbeing of children is at the centre of the court's approach to family law issues. But how does it really feel for children when their world changes around them?

This was written by a teenager whose parents divorced amicably some time ago and the reflections contained below provide an important insight into how a child may feel when they adapt to living in two homes.

"My parents got divorced when I was around 11 years old. It was a civil arrangement with no bitterness involved, yet it was still difficult despite being considered a blessing when compared to other more resentful divorces.

After a few months of separation, my parents told my siblings and me that they were getting divorced and proceeded to explain what that would mean to us. I remember the conversation vividly and I also remember thinking that is was the worst imaginable day possible. However, my parents gave us all very calm and empathetic explanations which made a divorce seem less daunting. It also cleared up the confusion over the separation.  

Once my dad had purchased a new house and the new arrangements had been made, such as splitting time equally between each household, they had an official divorce quietly and quickly based on separation. Due to the respect and love my parents still have for one another, all plans were able to be made through conversation and did not require legal action to resolve dispute.  

I think it is extremely important to reduce the negative stigma around receiving legal help as it only reflects onto the children who (despite adults' best attempts) will always overhear or see things. Seeing legal documents and papers around the house scared me when I was younger and made me panic. From my experience, although parents wish to keep their children out of the discussions, it is vital that clear explanations are made to the children because they are much more intelligent in regards to observation than most would assume. They are not stupid and always recognise the change of atmosphere or different dynamics in relationships. I know that I definitely noticed and I know my younger siblings definitely did because it was me who they came to with their anxieties even though they were only 7 and 5. Without an explanation for those changes, confusion and in turn frustration follow.

That is why it is the parents' responsibility to form a line of contact between each other, regardless of professional communication between lawyers representing them. There was no worse feeling than that of being messenger between parents, carrying passive aggressive conversations from one household to the other. If the child feels stuck between their parents, then their immediate support system is cut off. Both parents seem angry or unapproachable as the subject clearly upsets them. If children are lucky, they’ll have siblings who understand and support each other like I did. If not, the child will be dragged along and pushed between the parents with no support or an outlet for their emotions.

It got much easier to accept and understand the divorce the older I got. It was odd and quite scary to begin to understand that my parents were people too. I understand now that they experience negative and positive emotions just like me. Being a parent is not their only role in life.  It is scary at first that the people who protect and support you can be vulnerable or scared themselves, but it was freeing to understand. This meant that the anxieties and burdens I put on myself from the divorce were no longer mine. They were my parents' responsibilities and they were allowed to be weak or vulnerable without it reflecting onto me or my siblings. They are allowed to be human and this was no longer a scary concept, neither was their divorce because people experience love in a hundred different ways. Love changes and doesn’t need to last forever to serve its purpose.

My siblings and I now live with my dad for five days then swap to my mum’s house for five days. The arrangement is based on what we find easiest because we are the ones who have to organise our lives around two households. Our routine has changed twice before to accommodate new clubs or school timetables. It is sometimes stressful to make sure that my younger siblings remember all they need for school or clubs but if we need a change in the system, our parents regularly check and make sure it works for us.

It is the new normal for all of us and it doesn’t feel like a negative thing anymore, besides, we get two Christmases and double birthdays!"

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. It is really helpful for people to understand. If we can see what helped you and what added pressure to your life, we can do our best to minimise negative experiences. 

If you have any questions resulting from this please do not hesitate to contact us for a free 30 minute information session. call 01534 733030 or e-mail enquiries@corbettlequesne.com


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