Staying together for the children

Posted on: February 14th, 2020

As a family lawyer, I have developed an unnerving instinct when it comes to identifying relationships in distress. I have been known, on many occasions, to predict the imminent demise of a couple’s nuptials, despite all appearing perfectly normal to the outside world.

Couples who are clinging on to a metaphorical life raft tend to adopt micro-expressions; eye rolling, overly polite smiles, exasperated sighs. Other tell-tale signs include terse conversations and surreptitious phone usage. From many years of observing common behaviours, it has become evident to me that so many people are struggling in their relationships.

In fact, a recent survey conducted by Direct Line has concluded that 7.6 million parents have stayed in a relationship for longer than they would have liked with their spouse or partner because they have children together. Of those surveyed, 36% stated that they thought it was better for the children to have two parents living at home.

There is no doubt that separation does have a huge impact on children. Changes must be made, whether that’s moving house or spending time in a different location for part of the week. This can cause mixed feelings such as anger, anxiety, insecurity and guilt.

However, if there is one thing I can be certain of, it is this: children notice the terse conversations, the eye rolling and all of the other traits of a failing relationship. When they are immersed in a world where their parents have little respect or love for each other, they often form the view that this behaviour is normal. As a result, they may grow up to seek solace in similar, unsuitable partners, because that is all they know.

The survey also highlighted another common concern – 20% of participants revealed that they could not afford to separate. I accept that this is a tough one. In an age where everything seems to cost a lot of money, it can be daunting to plunge yourself into financial insecurity, especially when you have children to think about. However, all hope is not lost. There are laws in place to ensure that children’s welfare is given paramount importance when it comes to their parents separating or divorcing.

I was listening to a song called Jump by Madonna a few days ago and the opening lyrics struck me as somewhat apt in respect of this article: ‘There’s only so much you can learn in one place, the more time that I wait, the more time that I waste’.

Separating from a partner is not something to be taken lightly. It is a decision that is likely to have lifelong ramifications. Staying in one place can seem like the ‘easiest’ and ‘safest’ option. But is it the right one when your own emotional wellbeing (and that of your children) may suffer as a long term consequence? Sometimes, when my clients are at their lowest ebb, I remind them that this is but one moment in time and there is every possibility that there are better days to come. Change is inevitable.

As I see it, fear is a perfectly natural human response to life changing situations. That’s why it’s best to be armed with knowledge and options. I can guarantee that everyone close to you will want to offer heartfelt advice and, generally, they will be doing so out of concern and love. However, do bear in mind that friends and family are not always as objective as you may have hoped and they will invariably have their own personal biases to contend with. On another note, whilst the internet has changed the world, not everything you read online should be taken as gospel either.

At Coffin Mew, our understanding, practical and experienced family lawyers can advise you further on the financial implications of your separation and the long term arrangements in respect of your children. Armed with expert legal knowledge, you will give yourself the power to make informed choices and decisions on your future.

For more information about separation, divorce and child arrangements, please contact a member of the Family team or fill in the enquiry form.