Posts Tagged ‘Divorce’

Co-Parenting arrangements for children

I thought I would share with you an article written by FLIP to help separated couples make contact arrangements for their children. It involves an App called Our Family Wizard.  The article follows:

For many separated parents, finding a system of communication and organisation that enables them to co-parent well is not always straightforward. The system will usually comprise telephone calls, text messages, emails, WhatsApp messages to name but a few. Sometimes the system works well. Other times, it breaks down and can lead to confusion and misunderstandings. So, what can a programme which describes itself as “making co-parenting easier” offer to those parents who feel a little overwhelmed or perhaps in need of some help? Could it be the answer to their communication woes?


Our Family Wizard (OFW) was created by Paul and Dara Volker, a married couple who both have children from previous marriages. After separating from their former partners, it soon transpired that scheduling plans for the holidays (with their former spouses in mind) was something that was causing them some difficulty. They searched the internet to see if there was a (technological) solution that would enable them to communicate more effectively. It became apparent that there was no such thing. Having experienced family breakdown themselves and living with the realities of co-parenting with their former spouses, this gave them the vital insight required to create an innovative programme “to manage, schedule and share information cooperatively and efficiently”.

Whether or not interaction with a former spouse is difficult, the creators realised that centralising information and communication was key. The programme is designed to assist parents in a number of ways but primarily:  setting out schedules for children and their day to day activities, as well as enabling parents to keep track of expenses, appointments (and medical information), and
even a section for children’s clothes sizing so each parent can buy clothing and shoes without difficulty (and without having to ask the other parent for this basic information).
The transparency that comes with such a system would hopefully mean that fewer mistakes are made. It may also reduce, to an extent, the opportunity for conflict. By the same token, the openness of the system allows a parent to keep track of a pattern of non-communication where applicable or indeed the tone of communication that takes place.

The programme is available online where users can sign in or it can be downloaded as an app.

Parental alienation.

I read with interest about CAFCASS ‘ground breaking’ report on how to deal with Parental Alienation.  There are many children who on divorce and separation have been subtly or not so subtly alienated from one parent by the other.  The result is that they are ‘frightened’ of or hostile to one parent and therefore don’t see them. The parent who has enabled this or perpetrated it then gets the result that he or she wants which is to have the children all to themselves. Of course the impact on the children is terrible.  To grow up believe in the horror of one parent if they are not in reality, horrific, is not a functioning way to grow up and has an impact on the ability to form adult relationships in due course and an impact on how conflict is managed.

The question is what to do about it .CAFCASS suggest that the alienating parent have intensive therapy and if they are not responsive then the children should go and live with the parent they are alienated from.

I am interested to hear your response and ideas about this.  Did you grow up in a household where you didn’t see one parent because of alienation.  Are you a parent who doesn’t want your children to see you ex? What has been the impact on you?


Christmas and Divorce

You may be going into the festive period feeling not quite so festive.  You may have an idea that this will be your last Christmas a couple, or it may be your first Christmas post separation.  These times are difficult, not least because they highlight some very painful feelings.  You may be feeling lonely even though you have arrangements and will be seeing friends or relatives. Life moves at quite a pace and you will be looking back at this period quicker than you thought it was possible.  Dig deep for what resources you have and your capacity to hold on to those parts of your life that are working and still in existence.   January 2nd, will come sooner than you know it and it is an opportunity to re-group and think about how you can make things better for yourself.  Life is not just about one person, one relationship.  There is so much else and so much else to discover.  Of course there is loss and grieving to be done but it is not the whole story.

I wish all my readers a peaceful period and that 2018 is a good year for you all.

I have tried to share in my new book ‘Breaking Upwards, how to manage the emotional impact of separation’  all the thoughts that I have about divorce and separation gathered over many years as a therapist and as a barrister representing many people through their divorce.  I hope that you will find it helpful by using it to manage your separation:




Supporting Older Children through divorce

Guest Blog by James Pirrie of FLIP.

Children and the legal system
Perhaps 10% of divorcing couples become stuck over arrangements for their minor children, often moving towards mediation or the increasingly over-stretched courts to find their solutions. Specialist family lawyers, like those at my firm Family Law in Partnership, can sign-post other less-conflicted couples towards organisations that will help them to steer their children safely through the divorce or separation.

The challenges for older children
But what happens if the children are older? The growth of the grey divorce or silver separation has given rise to a sharp increase in the numbers of young adults seeing their parents separate. Embedded into 1970s culture was “staying together for the sake of the kids”. This in turn spawned the idea that adult children would somehow manage the divorce or separation of their parents better. Our experience at Family Law in Partnership is, however, quite different:

  • Older children are often faced with a bewildering challenge to their identity when their parents split up. Assuming that they were part of a ‘rock-solid’ intact family, they are thrust into a place where they need to reappraise themselves, re-think their future – and perhaps their past too: “at what point did my parents’ partnership actually end?”
  • Some will watch or even be involved as their parents, fearful of their own future security, vie for shares in the family assets. They may wonder “what about me?”
  • They may well experience a feeling of statelessness as the family home is sold and may suffer reduced parental support as their parents struggle to map out their own independent futures.

This may be a challenging chapter particularly when the child may already be struggling to find his/her feet perhaps at university or in a new career.

A legal safety net?
Most separating parents consider protecting their children as their first priority. They might assume that there is a legal safety-net firmly in place, providing principles and solutions if they can’t reach an agreement.

Sadly, not.

The boomerang generation is largely ignored. Young adults are likely to find themselves carving out their own futures, with fewer internal resources than their parents had and in most situations with less – if any – professional support:

  • Where there is a dispute about a child’s future, a child arrangement order will resolve the parents’ disagreement. But Parliament is clear that no court shall make such an order which will apply to a child once that child is sixteen unless the circumstances are “exceptional”.
  • As far as financial arrangements are concerned:
    • The Child Maintenance Service drops children broadly once they complete their A-levels.
    • Children are the court’s first consideration but only whilst they are minors.
    • For the subsequent period, courts seem content to see children supported whilst in education (or in theory training for a trade, profession or vocation). In practice, however, financial support will extend no longer than the conclusion of the child’s first degree, unless the child’s disability has created long-term financial dependency. Regular guidance from the courts is that it is not for the judge dealing with financial issues between parents to give their child a start in life as a young adult.
    • In never-married cases, the child’s home with the applicant-parent may be sold at the same time.
    • Support for children post-university during the boomerang years or to give them a start towards independence will be from one parent only or will depend on voluntary election.

Involving older children in the divorce
Despite the almost ubiquitous intention to be fair and supportive of the children, in most cases where there are older children they have been involved in the detail of the separation in a partisan way by one parent or the other. There will be a number of reasons for this. Parents initiating the separation may want to discuss the situation with their children to see whether they should proceed. For others, it is a question of support … “my children know the situation as well as anyone … if they see things my way it will be a vindication that I cannot get anywhere else.”

I was recently consulted by a mother whose priority was to protect the position of her adult children in the family business. Paradoxically by having made this part of her opening position she risked turning the children into pawns in the negotiations with her former partner. She showed the priority she attached to their long-term security. But the court could not offer her any assistance and she opened herself to tactical pressures from her former partner (doubly unfortunate, given that one of his priorities was succession arrangements for his business).

What older children need
Reading through the experiences of older children of divorce that are increasingly available on the internet, it is clear how these children can struggle. They have enough on their plate dealing with the break-up of their family and being brought in as a confidante, judge or sounding board by a parent adds significantly to the ongoing challenges they face. Whilst all families are different some ground-rules set out early on seem to promote better outcomes:

  • Reassure your children of your consistent and life-long love and support;
  • Release them from the burden of taking sides and keeping secrets. Give them your permission and approval (save where their safety could be compromised) to maintain a relationship with your ex partner.
  • Reassure your children of your intention to reach a good solution with your ex and make it clear that you don’t depend on your child’s support to do so.
  • Warn them that the process of divorce and separation isn’t easy and that you are going to be a little cranky from time to time.
  • Find a form of words to explain the family breakdown that your children can use as well as you. Ideally adopt it jointly with your ex. You will find that it releases you from being caught up in the tittle tattle around your separation that almost always works out badly for all of you. You risk polarising the family and reducing the framework of family and friends that otherwise your children could rely upon.

And yes, none of these are legal solutions that the court will provide. So, above all, what older children need is to have parents who themselves engage with appropriate counselling and therapeutic support, like that provided by Divorce Support Group, to enable them to craft solutions that will really work for their children.

January Blues

It is said that January is ‘Divorce Month’ when there is a spike in the statistics showing that more petitions are issued in January than at any other time of year.  Why is that?  There is something about the new year that focuses people on decisions that have to be made.  It is not that suddenly people think they might like a divorce and go and see a solicitor, it is more a question of having thought about separation for a long time and feeling unhappy that people suddenly realise that they don’t want to start yet another year in a marriage that doesn’t work.  It is almost impossible to separate before Christmas (although people often find out about affairs before Christmas) and with it out of the way, then people who have been contemplating it for a long time, feel that it is an opportunity for a new start.  It can be confusing to be on the receiving end of a divorce petition in January.  It is confusing for someone who is left to make sense of a nice family Christmas and a good break to then be met with being told that the relationship is over.  People are very good at hiding what they are feeling but it does make one mistrustful of ever knowing what is going on in someone’s head.  Often the person who does the leaving or the breaking up of the relationship has been planning it for a very long time, both by thought and often by deed (finding alternative accomodation or another relationship) and that leaves the person who is left reeling from the shock and having to catch up with events. A January separation gives the term January Blues a whole other depth of meaning. 

Divorce Insurance

There has been a lot of press in the last month or two about divorce insurance.  Some people are horrified by it as though by taking out this insurance policy, it is a cynical statement about marriage.  The article written in My Daily which you can read here – says that it is ‘horrifyingly practical’   I think it is practical, but horrifying?  We all know the divorce statistics and a bit like knowing burglary statistics, we insure ourselves against it.  That is not to say we don’t enter marriage in the blissful belief that it won’t happen to us.  People who like to anticipate things going wrong in life and who can afford it, will insure against burglary, illness and travel problems.  Isn’t this just another one of those practicalities.  The reality is that most people struggle hugely with the financial cost of pursuing divorce proceedings. That cost comes out of marital assets, and hard earned income.  There is so much talk of lawyers being so expensive.  Isn’t this the way to prevent that loss if your relationship does end.  You can enter marriage full of hope and love with a policy document hidden away in a drawer.  It doesn’t mean that you anticipate anything, it just means that if that rainy day comes, it may not feel financially as well as emotionally devastating.

Men seeking support during separation

Since I started Divorce Support Group, many more women than men have contacted me either for individual counseling and support or to join a support group, that is, until now.  Now I have as many men as women so that the groups are more balanced in terms of numbers.  It is really useful to hear the other side of things.  As a husband who has perhaps been left, it is useful to hear from a woman in the group who has done the leaving and vice versa.  It is so much easier to hear things from people who have come together solely to share experiences than from well intentioned friends, who may have their own agendas.  I don’t know why more men are now seeking help and are happy to talk about their loss, but it is good both for them of course, but also for women who can hear now the male perspective.