Parental separation can raise a host of complex issues.
- For some, the relationship may have been physically or psychologically dangerous;
- For others, the end of the relationship may be amicable;
- For many, it will be something in between;
- For all, the end of a relationship is a time of emotional turmoil.
Children are vulnerable at times of heightened emotions between parents. Where conflict between parents continues unresolved through childhood, children are at great risk of harm. Research shows this can affect their brain development and so affect the rest of their lives.
We need a system that will hold families through the turbulence of break-ups and protect children.
We need to come alongside families early in any break-up, before issues escalate, to manage this. We need a system that provides information and support, and ensures parents access the appropriate pathway to meet their family needs:
- For some, the priority will be to provide safety for a parent and/or children. The family court has a vital role to play for these families.
- For others, the family will need multi-disciplinary support while emotions dial down, to help them resolve issues arising from their separation For these families, a ‘legal’ backdrop to the end of their relationship is a blunt instrument at a fragile time; an adversarial legal system may add fuel to the fire of the breakdown, driving parents apart. Relational issues are not addressed in a system designed to administer law.
A process outside of legal
Court is not the right place for all families. Some need court intervention, but a significant number need other forms of support, and court proceedings will only intensify difficulties for the family.
Families need support that is not purely legal, such as therapeutic support, information about parenting when separated, managing emotions, conflict resolution, plus information about support pathways for their children.
To ensure families access the right support at the right time, all families need information and assessment of issues at an early stage before issues escalate, to access the right support for them.
“Those of us working in the system long for a better way of helping children, of helping
parents to resolve what are, in effect, relationship difficulties when they break up.”
President of the Family Division, FSG webinar November 2020