Making the decision to divorce can be difficult, for those with children it is often even more so. You need to consider how you will tell the children, how they will react and how you can minimise the impact upon them. As family law solicitors we see the consequences of parents getting this right, and unfortunately the impacts when they get it wrong. There are no set rules and there is no set formula on how to tell your children you intend to separate. If however you know it’s going to happen, you need to think about how to break the news to them given your own particular circumstances and the age of your children.
As a family law solicitor you would be surprised how many cases I have worked on where the parents have given little or no thought to how to tell their children or what impact it will have on the children. The result of this is that these are the very cases which most often become the most disputed. What usually then follows is unnecessary higher legal costs. Also, sadly, it is the children who then suffer the greatest distress.
Below are some very helpful guidelines published by ‘Resolution – first for family law’ parents might consider before telling their children they intend to divorce or separate.
Tips for telling the children you plan to divorce or separate
- If possible, both parents should tell the children together. However, this is only going to happen if both parents want to do this and can control their own feelings and emotions.
- Work out what you are going to say in advance.
Whether you are telling the children together or individually, children will benefit from hearing the same message from you both. Keep it simple. Avoid blame.
- Try to view the situation through their eyes.If one parent is determined to blame the other, this can confuse children. Children will most likely feel worried about upsetting or siding with the other parent.
- Manage your own feelings. Separation brings a whole range of emotions. Think about how you can minimise the impact of your own feelings and emotions on the children when you tell them.
- Let them know how things will change. Explain to them when they will see and spend time with you both, where they will live and what will happen at Christmas and on birthdays. If they ask questions that you do not want to answer or you cannot answer, let them know you are still working things out and will come back to them when you have.
- Make it clear they are not to blame. Make sure they know that the decision had nothing to do with them. Children very often feel responsible when their parents split up. They need to know and understand it is not because of them.
- Let them ask questions and talk about how they feel. When you first talk to them don’t overwhelm them. Keep the information straightforward and age appropriate. Follow up with further talks later on.
Don’t forget that your children like you will need time and support to adjust to a new situation.
At Woolley & Co all are our lawyers are members of Resolution which is a body of 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals in England and Wales who believe in and practice a constructive and non-confrontational approach to family law. If you follow the above tips and seek further help from an experienced family law solicitor or another appropriate advice organisation you will be doing the best you can and you won’t go far wrong.
There’s some useful guidance in this video from my colleague Kathryn McTaggart
Family law solicitor London