Divorce can have a profound effect on the children of a marriage who may experience a wish for family life to remain as it was, resentment to a parent who left them or to a parent whom they see as forcing the other to leave, or indeed guilt and the belief that what has happened may in someway be their fault. It is important to reassure children, especially young children, at this time and to explain as clearly as you can what will be happening and how it will affect them. Irrespective of any perception of “fault” which either spouse or parent holds towards the other, avoid it at this difficult time. Your children come first and cannot help what is happening. You may not be able to stop a divorce, but you can certainly influence the effect it has on your children. Be sensible, be mature and don’t make it any worse for them. Co-operate with each other and with any arrangements you make with the other spouse; discuss any concerns you have with your spouse or if that is difficult, with your solicitor or any mediator if necessary. Honour any obligations or agreements for contacts or visits, since failing to do so or surprise cancellations can be a source of friction and of disappointment in the children. The court is reluctant to get involved in the issues surrounding children, but will do if it is necessary and you cannot reach agreement yourselves. Under the Children Act 1989, the court can make four types of orders in relation to children, namely a residence order (specifying where a child should live), a contact order (specifying when, where and how the children can see a non-custodial parent), a prohibited steps order (such as to prevent a change of name or to prevent a foreign holiday) and a specific issues order (to determine a specific dispute, such as which school a child will attend).

A court will consider the arrangements for the children before it makes a decree absolute and it is the duty of both parents to get their heads together and sensibly discuss issues surrounding residence, contact, schools, collection arrangements and care needs during those long school holidays.