It’s a longstanding principle of the British legal system that in divorce and separation cases the children come first. Children’s needs (under 18 years) take priority when the court is asked to consider a division of assets. In disputes about childcare arrangements, welfare is the court’s paramount consideration. The wishes and feelings of the child are taken into account, in light of their age and understanding. Cases are supposed to be dealt with speedily as delay in deciding the outcome is thought to be harmful to the child. But then why do children continue to be negatively affected by separation and divorce? And why is there an increase in children needing counselling and mental health services?
Our court system is, unfortunately, weighed down with children disputes. And with legal aid largely withdrawn from the vast majority of people (except for domestic violence cases), there is a rising number of parents who resort to representing themselves attempting to make their way through the law and rules. In proceedings, the parties’ positions naturally become divided with a spectrum of child arrangement options. These conflicts become lengthy and bitter, and the outcome is out of their control. This in turn, creates uncertainty and impacts upon the wellbeing of the children.
So, what’s the answer?
The use of mediation is on the rise as more parents see the benefit of making their own decisions. Mediation is a process where the parents can make their own informed decisions. A resolution-trained mediator will not only be able to act as an independent, impartial facilitator, helping the parties to make their own decisions but will also have full knowledge of the law and procedures controlling children disputes. However, parties can still choose to take their own legal advice alongside the process should they wish to do so. Research shows that if parents can make their own informed decisions together, long term co-parenting is possible benefitting children.
Discussions in mediation are confidential to the parties and parents can discuss and make concessions freely, without worrying that their concessions will be revealed to the court if mediation breaks down. Parents retain control over the process and decisions are made much more quickly and at a fraction of the cost of litigation. Children are consequently less likely to be exposed to parental conflict.
Read about our Pulled Both Ways campaign, which helps children through the emotional impact of divorce and separation.