How to stay friends with your ex for the sake of the children

By Kate Banerjee, Partner and head of the Children Department

As experienced family lawyers, our ethos at Jones Myers is to always advise our clients to put their children at the heart of their divorce.

Children will be unsettled by any split and the importance of keeping divorce and its aftermath amicable and civilised – with co-operation, negotiation and rancour-free agreement – is paramount.

We will suggest support, such as counselling or family therapy, if we feel it will help families to cope with a marriage break – and ensure that the children retain healthy relationships with both mum and dad.

Here are some tips on keeping children as happy, secure and untroubled as possible during challenging times:

Be considerate to each other

Think of parenting as a business partnership. You wouldn’t argue with a colleague in front of a client or criticise them publicly, so treat your ex with respect – regardless of whether you think they deserve it.

Make it easier on children – who might understandably feel torn – by showing a genuine interest in what they do during their time with your former spouse. This can help reduce the emotional distress and conflict that may arise on these occasions and lessen any urge to display loyalty to either parent.

Work out a parenting plan

Work together to compile and sign up to a parenting plan which encompasses the home and school environment you both want for your children. This will include key elements such as visiting schedules and holidays for parents and grandparents, routines, bedtimes, homework, television and IT access.

Consistency is key so ensure that you and your former spouse lay down the same ground rules to avoid confusing the children.
Factor some flexibility into your plan to accommodate your respective home and work commitments – and to ensure it evolves to accommodate your children’s needs as they grow.  Support each other through the plan – even if you disagree on elements of it.

Share the plan

Having committed to the plan, share it with the children – who like certainty and security – and tell them what’s happening at all times.

Let them know as far in advance as possible about visits and holidays to give them a chance to adjust to anything they might not have expected – and to look forward to key calendar highlights such as birthdays and holidays.

Communicate regularly

Avoid using your children as messengers and communicate with each other – whether it is face-to-face, by ‘phone, SMS or email. Constructive direct dialogue keeps the spirit of co-operation alive – and makes it far less likely that either of you will be upset if access plans or pick-up/drop-off plans have to be rescheduled – again benefiting the children.

 

It is extremely important for children to see their parents collaborating and agreeing on key issues from the outset of a divorce. This will help enormously as they grow up and situations may evolve when boundaries are tested and parents find themselves being played off against each other.

Working with your ex may not always be easy, but communication and collaboration will make a huge difference to not only your lives, but those of your children.

Our Children Department is highly skilled in cases relating to children including contact and residence disputes. We specialise in child protection law and are a member of the Child Care Panel with experience representing parents, children, guardians and local authorities.

As well as working regionally and nationally, Jones Myers has considerable expertise in international child abduction cases.

If you have any comments, queries or concerns on mediation or divorce related issues, leave a comment below, call the Jones Myers team on 0113 246 0055 or tweet us on @helpwithdivorce.

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