A recent study by University College, London has shown that, as suspected, parental divorce has a negative impact on children. The study of 6000 children, aged 3 to 14 years old, made a number of findings including that children aged over 7 years of age were impacted most significantly when their parents separated.

UCL study co-author Professor Emla Fitzsimons said: ‘Family splits occurring in late childhood are detrimental to adolescent mental health. One possible reason is that children are more sensitive to relationship dynamics at this age. Family break-ups may also be more disruptive to schooling and peer relationships at this stage of childhood.’

Boys, it was found, were more likely to misbehave as a result of the impact upon them than girls. The reasons for this are unclear.

Of course, when parents separate there are many competing issues to deal with. Finances and occupation of the family home can quickly become priorities and it can be difficult to keep this from children and avoid them being aware of what is going on. Older children are perhaps more aware of the issues which their parents are trying to deal with and can sometimes get embroiled in arguments.

The study showed that this can have a negative impact on children in terms of their emotional development and behaviour. These in turn can affect their education and last through to adulthood. Avoiding this negative impact is the responsibility not only of the parents but professionals in the Family Justice system.

Whilst in many cases, parents are able to deal with matters amicably, when there are disagreements, early legal advice to know what your rights and responsibilities are can assist in focussing the parents on reaching an agreement. Many lawyers in our Family Department are members of Resolution. Resolution members acknowledge a code of conduct which primarily focusses on reducing and managing confrontation and conflict between couples who are separating.

Experts have linked this to government proposals to legislate for “no fault divorce” which, they say, would result in a greater number of divorces.

It is critical therefore that parents obtain early advice with a view to early resolution of issues arising out of separation to avoid unnecessary difficulties for children going through that process.

Members of our Family Department can offer advice at any stage of separation with a view to reducing the stress involved. Please contact the team on 0845 287 0939 or email us through our online contact form.