Last week I wrote about the difficult conversations parents have with their children when they decide to separate. The guilt a person feels about the effect on their children can be incredible, but is divorce really that bad? Having come from a home where my parents have been happily married for over 40 years I never had reason to question whether divorce can be the right thing to do rather than ‘staying together for the sake of the children’. These views have changed since becoming a family lawyer, and conversations I have had over the last week or so have given me even more food for thought.
I recently met a gentleman who had been divorced. He was the father of three children. He told me that his wife one day turned to him and said that she didn’t want to be married to him. He said that until then he just hadn’t considered whether he was a good husband or father. Following his separation from his wife, two of the three children came to live with him. He was forced to look after them and be there for them in a way he hadn’t before. He told me it made him a better person and a better father. He firmly believes that the strong relationship he has with his children now would not be there had he not been separated from their mother. Ultimately he became so much more focused on his children’s needs that the third child also came to live with him. For him the divorce was the most painful thing he went through but one of the best things that happened to him. When I asked him about his views now having been divorced he said simply that children will get over it and perhaps be far happier if their parents do separate.
Similarly, whilst talking to someone else about the effects of divorce on children, they revealed to me that they and their siblings spent years hoping and praying that their parents would divorce. Their parents clearly no longer loved each other and in their eyes were living a lie in the misguided belief that it was the right thing to do. Living in a tense and false environment caused far more stress and anxiety than any separation would.
I agree many children want their parents to stay together. But what sort of message are you sending out to your children choosing to stay with someone you no longer want to be with, pretending to be happy but in reality feel miserable, or in more severe cases, staying with someone who is extremely controlling or abusive? I am fairly confident that in a lot of cases the effect of staying together ‘for the sake of the children’ can be far more damaging to them.
Giving your children the love and support they need is perhaps the most important factor in their stability. Having two parents who are happier, albeit separated, and able to focus on their child’s needs is surely the lesser of two evils when it comes to divorce?
If you have decided to separate or seek a divorce and wish to discuss your options, and obtain some good practical advice, please contact me, Sara Barnes, on 01245 809556 or firstname.lastname@example.org