Information for parents and grandparents
Divorce, parents and children
Divorce is obviously a difficult time for parents and children alike. On the index of life stress, divorce is one of the most substantial life events. Its impact can last many years, even a lifetime, and it can cause relationships between parents and children to deteriorate, even into adulthood.
In terms of relationships with children, in the worst case, parents can find that they may not have access to their children at all. This causes parents to become depressed and they may even find that their life has lost an important process. Even if access is not lost, parents may find that restrictive access conditions are placed so that they can only see children at certain times of the day, or days of the week.
It is important that you remember the following in the early stages of a divorce:-
• Keep the lines of communication open between you and your former partner. Children will need to see that you are still in touch with your ex-partner and that you are working together to make decisions about the future.
• Involve children in discussions. Use age-appropriate language so that children feel that they know what is going on.
• Children are very good at picking up on changes in atmosphere, or emotional tone, in the household. Do not think that just by not talking about problems that children will ignore them.
Why mediation can help
Mediation is one of the best ways to make sure that divorce has less of an impact on the relationship between you and your ex-partner, and importantly, between you and your children. Mediation is usually required by courts. Only in exceptional circumstances will a judge allow a case to be taken to court without initial mediation information meetings. Mediation is a process that involves a series of meetings with a qualified, experienced, mediator. After initial meetings to establish the process, you will be involved in meetings between you and your partner with an experienced mediator. The purpose of these meetings is to determine a final agreement that you can both mutually sign.
This is very useful in terms of relationships between parents and children:-
• Children can be involved, to a certain extent, in the mediation process. A mediator can explain to you and your child what will be involved in mediation.
• Issues concerned with children, such as access and maintenance, can be resolved quickly and cleanly.
• Children will see that you and your ex-partner are working together to resolve issues rather than fighting it out in court.
• Mediation is less expensive than a legal dispute and there will be more resources for you to jointly spend on your children’s future.
• Mediation results in a mutual agreement between you and your partner which enables you to face the future confident that arrangements for your children have been taken into account.
In order to make sure that you have considered everything when making plans for divorce you and your ex-partner, with the assistance of your mediator, may wish to draw up a parenting plan. A parenting plan includes all aspects of child care, and associated activities, following a divorce. Parenting plans can include:-
• Living arrangements. Where are your children going to live on a daily basis? Are they going to live in different houses on different days of the week? Are these arrangements expected to change in the future?
• Day to day activities. Who is going to drop the children off at school and collect them? Who is responsible for making the children’s meals? What about after-school clubs and weekend activities?
• Holiday times. Who is going to look after the children in the school holidays? What happens at other times, such as school INSET days, or when children are unwell?
• School. Which school or nursery are the children going to attend? How are you going to arrive at this decision?
• Cultural issues. What religion, if any, are your children going to be brought up in? How are you going to make decisions about cultural issues concerning issues such as diet or which television programmes you are going to allow children to watch?
• Health. How are you going to make sure that children follow a healthy diet and take exercise? Who is going to be responsible for taking them to the park, or for leisure activities?
• Financial considerations. Who is going to provide for the children’s future? What about inheritance and money for university, or further education? Are the children going to get pocket money?
• Changes to arrangements. Who is the children’s guardian? How might things change in the future?
The role of grandparents
As well as parents, grandparents can play a central role in children’s lives. This is particularly when parents are divorcing. In this case, grandparents can make sure that they are a consistent reference point for children.
Advice to grandparents:-
• Make sure that you know what is being discussed in terms of your grandchildren. Mediation can help to ensure that your grandchildren have a safe and secure future.
• You can be included in the mediation process. For example, the mediator will talk to you about what mediation involves.
• Make sure that you still see your grandchildren on a regular basis.
• Try to keep up with familiar routines. If you used to pick up your grandchildren after school before the divorce, try to maintain this pattern.