Why ‘staying together for the children’ may not be good for your kids

Children having tea with teddies

To divorce or not to divorce? LGFL Director takes a look at new evidence as to why divorce might be the best option.

For all the unhappy couples who decided in January that this was the month they would finally file for divorce, I know from professional experience there are many more who decide to stay together ‘for the sake of the children’.

However, recent evidence is mounting that children who live in a home where there are unresolved tensions between parents can be adversely affected by the resulting arguments, negativity and potential verbal and emotional abuse.

Timing is important

According to a study by University College London (UCL),

“Children who experience a family break-up in late childhood and early adolescence are more likely to have emotional and behavioural problems than those living with both parents.”

What made this study so interesting, however, was the importance of the timing of the divorce, in terms of how old the children were. Professor Emla Fitzsimons, co-author of the UCL study, noted that:

“Children whose parents broke up in late childhood and early adolescence, between the ages of 7 and 14 had, on average, a 16 per cent increase in emotional problems and an 8 per cent rise in conduct issues in the short-term.

Children whose parents separated earlier, between ages 3 and 7, were no more likely to experience mental health problems either in the short-term or later on, by age 14, than those living with both parents.”

She suggested that:

“One possible reason for this is that children are more sensitive to relationship dynamics at this age (7-14 years). Family break-ups may also be more disruptive to schooling and peer relationships at this stage of childhood.”


Younger children and separation

The inevitable conclusion is that if you have younger children and are considering separating due to irreconcilable differences with your spouse, divorce might actually be the better option than staying together because children are more adaptable when they are younger. They therefore get used to growing up with separated parents, and having two homes.

If you wish to talk through your options for divorce in complete confidence, call us for a one to one consultation. You can meet us at our highly discreet countryside offices in Swallowfield.


The impact of delaying divorce: a personal insight

In a remarkable article for The Telegraph, Nell Frizzel tells her story, of begging her parents to get divorced aged 9, and them finally announcing the split just three weeks before her A-levels exams. She is remarkably frank, describing how in her view it is:

“Better to have a disorienting break while you’re young, than to suffer years in the company of two people enacting a corrosive war of insults, screaming, lying, gaslighting, sulking, infidelity or violence, centimetres from where you’re trying to do your homework.”

And in support of this, an article in Psychology Today by Susan Pease Gadoua suggests that:

“Divorce does not harm kids, per se. There’s ample research out there that divorce isn’t the worst thing that parents can do to kids: Fighting terribly and subjecting them to your vitriolic hatred toward each other is the worst; staying married in such a state is actually worse for kids than if you actually got divorced.”


Not just the kids

The UCL study highlighted another important issue. Divorced lone mothers who became the home parent for older children were more likely to develop mental health problems than lone mothers who have divorced when the children were younger.


Putting the children first

It’s a phrase we hear a lot, how parents want to ‘put the children first’. At LGFL, we take a slightly different slant, in that we put the children at the heart of everything we do in a family law case, including divorce.

It’s an approach that integrates all the legal aspects with a pragmatic overview of future family life moving forward. For example, “Putting the children first” might cause a parent to fight tooth and nail to keep the family home, when actually they cannot afford it, nor require such a large house once separated from their spouse.

Putting the children at the heart of the divorce involves a practical look at the finances alongside other issues, and realising what is important for the children is proximity to friends, family, school, stability, days out and not (necessarily) the size of their bedroom. We also urge clients not to put themselves under constant financial pressure which again causes stress which can pass down to the children.


Get legal advice now

If you are considering divorce, expert legal advice can never be sought too early. As one half of a married couple, you’ll need to untangle many aspects of your life including day to day finances, property, investments, and pensions, and ensure that your divorce settlement is fair and fit for your future life.

Call us at LGFL for a personal, bespoke and highly discreet service that, as we’ve said before, puts your children at the heart of everything.