- Your children know more than you think they do
Unless your children are very young, they will know that there is tension in your relationship. They might even know that you are thinking of getting divorced. If they are older, they might secretly hope that you do.
Is this because they don’t love you?
It’s because they do.
Children are very sensitive to how it ‘feels’ in their home. For children, their home is their sanctuary, the place where they (usually) feel safest. It’s where they can feel grounded and have certainty about the way things are.
If you are thinking of getting divorced, endeavour to keep this information to yourselves. Don’t have conversations when the children are in bed (who remembers sitting at the top of the stairs as a child listening into grown up talk)?
Make time when the children are not at home and agree not to discuss your divorce at any other time. If you decide on a temporary separation, or divorce, tell your children as soon as you can and be honest in an age appropriate way.
Where possible, agree with your spouse to tell your children together; and, tell all your children at the same time. Siblings derive great support from this. Tell them in the way that the youngest child will understand.
It’s likely that older children will have questions. Address these separately. A useful book for children 7 years and under ‘It’s not your fault KOKO Bear’ by Vicky Lansky is available on Amazon. It helps you and your younger children to discuss divorce.
Mediation will help you and your children
Consider mediation before you consult a lawyer. Mediation can help you to get back into communication with one another, help you decide on the type of divorce you want, and consider the principles by which you want to divorce. Mediation can run along side using a lawyer, and if you are clear about the type of divorce you want, and what your assets and liabilities are, it will save both time and money. Public funding is also still available for mediation for some people.
There is no presumption of shared care
Many people who are separating think that they are entitled to share their children equally in terms of the time they spend with them. There is no presumption of this in English law, although it can work for some people. It all depends on the “best interests’ test. This means what is in the best interests of your children in terms of stability, consistency, schooling etc. This will be different for children of different ages, different siblings within one family unit, and will change over time.
There won’t necessarily be a 50:50 split
There is no presumption in English law that your assets will be split 50:50. You are of course free to negotiate your own settlement using mediation and / or the help of lawyers and other specialists. If a court is asked to make a decision, that decision is final. Lawyers and mediators will help you apply the same criteria to your discussions as the court would. These are known as s25 Factors. S25 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 only applies to married couples but the principles apply to non-married couples with children. The court will look at the needs of your children, the ability of each of you to earn money, the length of your marriage amongst other things.
There are no ‘winners’ in divorce
Probably the most important thing to remember when you get divorced, is that there are no winners. Even if you go to court and get what you want, it will have come at an emotional and financial cost to you and your children. The damage that this causes can last years and impact on the way your children conduct their relationships in adult life.
The way you handle your relationship break down and divorce will be unconsciously stored by your children as a model of behaviour. It is your responsibility to set a good example however difficult this may be. There is no shame in seeking help and support if you need to.
Emma Heptonstall, The Divorce Alchemist, writes, “I’m a recovering lawyer having served as a legal adviser for thirteen years. I’m also a family mediator, a job which love and I’m very proud of. I’m a certified MBit Coach, have a Diploma in counselling skills and I’m an NLP Master Practitioner. I developed Divorce Alchemy to provide divorce coaching for women who know that they need support to deal with the practical and emotional aspects of their divorce in order that they make good decisions, which will support their lives as a confident divorced woman.
My story is different. I don’t tell my clients that I know what they are going through. I don’t. I’m not divorced. In fact, for what its worth, I’m not even married… yet! You are unique. You divorce is unique. I get that. I help women because I’m not divorced. I’m not their sister, best friend or mother. I’m not emotionally involved in their divorce and I’m not on my own healing journey.
I love blogging and sharing my stuff. You can read more of my blogs at www.yourfamilyfirst.co.uk/our-blog/ and you can download your free copy of The Smart Woman’s Divorce Guide at www.emmaheptonstall.com. I live in York. That’s old York, York UK and I coach women 1:1, either face to face or via Skype. You can connect with me on Facebook Twitter LinkedIn G+