Whatever happens, we parents all hold the deepest level of moral responsibility towards our children when we involve them in our relationship breakdowns.
First there should a focus on children and their feelings. The breakdown of a relationship affects different children of different ages and personalities in different ways. But the effects are almost entirely negative. If the children pick up on the destructive emotional forces of the parents the effects can be permanently scarring.
Perhaps, where the parents are exceptionally mature or where they have slowly drifted apart, the transition from life partners to mother and father of the children is a relatively painless transition.
For most couples, though, it is a very difficult transition and one which requires help. This is the area where mediation has its greatest success. Just getting parents, in a neutral environment, to concentrate on the children – rather than their negative feelings towards one another.
Solicitors are there. The court is there. But only as a post of last resort. The structure is adversarial rather than conciliatory. Most family lawyers are members of Resolution, where we hope to create a dialogue which is as conciliatory, with as little acrimony, as possible. However, the structure will almost invariably ramp up the tension. And the result is rarely satisfactory.
Although it is the least ‘legal’ of our work, nevertheless there are for example standard templates for the absent parent seeing the children. And there are a 101 reasons why a situation falls outside the norm. International. Lots of children. Children from different relationships.
The right solicitor can be invaluable just by advising you about the law and imparting wisdom. The wrong solicitor can be a grenade into the family unit.
Please read our leaflet on children. This, amongst other things gives you some idea of the likely costs involved.
You may wish a limited amount of legal input at the beginning to understand the process – but mediation is much more successful in most cases than court proceedings, which in most children related cases should be seen as very much a last resort.
Every case is very different. It is difficult to generalise here.