PARENTS LEFT TO FEND FOR THEMSELVES AS RECORD NUMBERS OF CHILDREN CAUGHT UP IN FAMILY SEPARATION
More children than ever before have been caught up in disputes following family separation, according to the latest family court statistics.
Yet two thirds of separated parents surveyed ahead of this year’s Good Divorce Week said they lacked help or advice about how to put their children first when they split from their partner.
New research by family justice organisation Resolution lays bare the struggles of separated parents, particularly during the pandemic. Resolution commissioned an exclusive poll of separated parents, carried out by YouGov.
One third of separated or divorced parents said they found it harder to keep child contact arrangements in place since pandemic restrictions such as lockdowns began. Nearly three in 10 said that they have felt more stress/tension in their relationship with their ex-partner since the pandemic started.
The latest official figures show nearly 90,000 children were involved in private law applications – legal processes to determine matters like who the child lives with - in England and Wales in the last 12 months. That’s the highest figure ever recorded and an increase of over 6% on the previous year.
With nearly a quarter of a million people getting divorced each year, the need for information and support is clear, yet separated parents reported a distinct absence of guidance in this area.
A new guide from Resolution, Parenting Through Separation, aims to fill that gap. It offers information on separation and divorce, and advice and practical tips on ensuring family break-up has as little impact on children as possible.
The new poll underlines the need for resources like this. Parents reported a range of behavioural impacts that separation had on their children.
One in 10 said their children showed violent outbursts and one in seven said their children displayed anti-social behaviour since breaking up with their ex-partner.
A quarter of parents said their children showed a loss of confidence and a similar proportion said their children had suffered from depression due to family breakdown.
Nearly 40% of parents surveyed said they turned to friends and family for advice during their separation. A third of parents engaged a solicitor or legal professional and the vast majority of them reported that doing so was an effective method in helping to get them the advice they needed.
Juliet Harvey, National Chair of Resolution said: “Family break up is often a fraught and difficult time for parents, and it can be even harder for children. However, Resolution members are here to help find a better way. Our members offer free or low-cost advice through their firms across the country, or through schemes like the Family Law Panel or Advicenow.
“As part of our annual awareness week we’ve also published the Parenting Through Separation guide to help, and made it free to members of the public, alongside a suite of useful resources and articles on our website. We know parents want to put their children first and this guide will help many more to do that with tips on things like communicating with your children during separation and dealing with big life events after you’re separated.
“Resolution members offer support that can help minimise conflict, put the best interests of children first, and avoid court where possible. That’s good for parents, children and families.”
Bob Greig, co-director of the Family Law Panel said, “We know from the nature of the enquiries we get the importance of getting advice early on in the process. There's no substitute for legal advice from a trained professional, but Resolution’s guide is a good place to start and can help parents avoid some of the common pitfalls many face.”