This week is Family Mediation week, and with that in mind Samantha Lee looks at how divorce has changed over the past few decades, and what affect this can have on children.
“In the 80s those facing divorce often felt judged, criticised and isolated; they were often the first people in their families whose marriage had not stood the test of time.
Since I qualified to be a family lawyer, I have witnessed clients’ backgrounds change, and they are less likely to be the only member of their extended family to have divorced. Often our clients have lived through the divorce of their parents and feel huge guilt in facing the prospect of a divorce when they themselves have children. It brings back painful memories of what they have been through when their parents divorced, and they want to shield their children from the emotional upheaval that they experienced.
I am a family mediator as well as a family lawyer, and at initial meeting for both family mediation clients and divorce clients for legal advice, I commonly hear that the main priority for families is to reach a solution that will cause the least harm to their children. Those people who have been through their own parent’s divorce know the lasting damage that can occur, so they are keen to reduce the emotional damage to their children.
Perhaps they lost contact with one of their parents; forced to pick sides, often feeling like the enemy if and when the wanted contact with the estranged parent. Even if contact is re-established in adulthood, it cannot make up for the lost years of childhood.
The guilt is palatable and completely understandable.
Marriage meant a quiet determination to ensure that they never put their children through what they went through, so they feel that not only has the marriage failed but they have failed their children too.
Then there are those facing divorce that have a happier experience of their own parents’ divorce. Ones where they maintained a healthy relationship with both parents and the divorce was amicable. Those individuals also want to ensure that their children experience the least amount of damage by mimicking the agreeable nature of their parents’ divorce.
The message of both cases can be described as communication about children. In the acrimonious divorces it was severely lacking, but in the positive divorce stories, it was clearly there.
So, when I meet clients wanting to use family mediation they are clear with their reasoning that even when it’s difficult to communicate as a separating couple, they recognise the benefits of mediation for their family; the unique platform on which to hear and be heard by their estranged partner. This gives the basis of co-parenting a much stronger foundation.
Whatever has happened within a marriage, when there are children, two people are forever united as a unit with their children; be it raising them as young children, being proud parents at their wedding, or becoming grandparents.”