February 6, 2015

Dealing with divorce – when mother doesn’t always know best

Oscar winning actress Kate Winslet has told a glossy magazine that divorce can be good for children.

The cover star of the March edition of Harper’s Bazaar says divorce can be turned into a positive as it teaches children “how to struggle”.

It is just over a year since mother of three Ms Winslet, who has been married three times, upset fathers with her forthright remarks on shared parenting in another high end publication.

Following the birth of her youngest child Bear, the ‘Titanic’ star commented in Vogue: “None of this 50/50 time with the mums and dads – my children live with me; that is it.”

That particular statement saw Ms Winslet embroiled in a very public spat with Fathers4Justice, the group campaigning for greater access to their children.

I was speechless when I read Ms Winslet’s so-called nuggets of wisdom. Divorce is not a badge of honour, and when children are involved, it must be handled with huge sensitivity.

It’s easy to espouse such views when you’re an international film star with a superannuated income. However, Ms Winslet’s opinion might be different if she was a single mother on a low wage, using a food bank to feed her three children and denied access to Legal Aid for her divorce.

In my experience as a family lawyer, most parents strive to ensure that their children don’t struggle with separation and divorce. As regular readers of our blog will know, at Jones Myers we are passionate about both mothers and fathers sharing time with their children.

Some extremely credible organisations have researched the impact of divorce on children and Ms Winslet’s comments are out of kilter with their findings and recommendations.

A report from the highly respected Children and Family Court Advisory Service (CAFCASS) revealed that children witnessing parents’ disputes may be left emotionally bruised. In fact children’s mental health is a factor in many of the cases CAFCASS deals with in family courts – often as a result of parental acrimony.

Childline saw a 122% rise in the number of young people contacting them about their parents’ separation or divorce. Some youngsters turn to drink or drugs as a result of their parents’ splitting up, according to research from Netmums.

Relate’s chief executive, Ruth Sutherland, has written a guest blog for Jones Myers about the organisation’s support service for families. The service was launched after Relate’s own research highlighted that 52% of separating parents were concerned their separation had negatively impacted on their children.

If Ms Winslet needs further proof of the pain children can suffer when parents divorce, I direct her to this powerful and emotional guest blog from Hayley Cervi. Ms Cervi is involved with pioneering children’s charity Kids in the Middle. The organisation provides support for youngsters ‘struggling’ to cope with family breakdowns.

Should children ‘struggle’ with divorce because it will teach them life isn’t always easy?  Do leave a comment below or please e-mail us. You can follow us on Twitter @helpwithdivorce

If you have any concerns about the impact of separation or divorce on children then please call us on 0113 246 0055 or email us.