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Good Divorce Week: the negative impact of conflict on children

Posted: 27/11/2018

This week is Good Divorce Week (#gooddivorceweek)! Yes, it is possible to divorce well and for families going through separation to find #abetterway. The aim of the week, organised by Resolution, the national organisation of family lawyers committed to non-confrontational divorce, is to shine a light on the very serious long-term effects that family conflict can have on children. It seems obvious, but it is the conflict which often flows from family breakdown that can pose a significant threat to children’s well-being, rather than the fact of the breakdown itself. In fact, 82% of young people (aged 14-22) said that they would prefer their parents to split if they were unhappy.

As members of Resolution, our family lawyers are committed to reducing conflict and helping families to identify non-confrontational ways of working through difficult times. Our experienced team is always focused on finding solutions that minimise the damage that can be inflicted on children growing up through divorce or separation.

A YouGov poll publicised by Resolution shows that 79% of the population agrees that conflict from family breakdown can negatively impact children’s mental health. Not surprisingly, those polled who had experienced parental separation as children pushed that statistic to 87%. The negative consequences of conflict for children included poorer academic performance and an impaired ability to form healthy romantic relationships and to have positive social interactions.

Good Divorce Week aims to help parents separating to put their children’s interests first. Resolution is also calling on the government to remove blame from the divorce process so that #nofaultdivorce becomes, not only possible in a wider range of situations, but the usual route to divorce or dissolution. Sadly, the current divorce law system requires the majority of those seeking a divorce to attribute blame at the very start of the process.

The “blame game” creates conflict at precisely the point when a family needs access to a legal pathway that curbs tension, rather than promoting acrimony. The YouGov poll makes it clear that what young people want is to be listened to - about where and with whom they will live and spend time after their parents have parted. What they don’t want is to be made to feel as if they have to “choose” between their parents or be blamed for the breakdown. Hearteningly, those young people polled agreed that their parents had put their needs first when handling their break-up. It is now time for divorce law to change so that it is fit for purpose: enabling adults to choose to part ways with the minimum bitterness, distress and humiliation.

For a review of how the law on divorce in England and Wales currently compares to more than 20 jurisdictions around the world, see our latest barometer

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