October 19, 2012

Why children should be seen AND heard

by David McHardy

In a recent survey a staggering 81 per cent of people agreed that children are ‘usually the main casualties’ in divorce. The research by Resolution, the professional body committed to taking conflict out of family disputes, comes as the Government looks to give children a greater voice when parents divorce.

At Jones Myers we believe a holistic and non-confrontational approach to divorce is essential in order to avoid acrimonious court room tussles that are in no one’s interest – least of all a child’s. One approach is for lawyers to work closely with family experts such as social workers, counsellors and other advisors to help children cope when parents part.

That is what is happening in Essex where I have been involved in the setting up of a new initiative, Essex Family Solutions, which could become a model for supporting families going through separation. The group, one of the first in the country, brings together professionals from many disciplines united in our belief that finding non-confrontational solutions to divorce is critical for every family member.

An example of how this might work in practice is when a client going through a challenging separation and is concerned about the impact on the children. Someone like Sylvia Ould from Family Assessments is an experienced social worker who has worked exclusively with families, including several years within the Children and Family Court and Support Service (CAFCASS), could be instructed jointly to assess and work with the children and the family to see if she could suggest how they can work better together.

If this approach is agreed, Sylvia meets mum and dad separately and then the children – always in a comfortable and non-threatening environment. Her approach is tailored to each particular family, she is very hands on and, above all, she listens to the children to provide a practical solution.

This approach illustrates the way that Jones Myers LLP can provide an alternative solution for divorcing couples in difficult cases. With changes to legal aid next year, fewer couples will be able to afford the expense of lawyers arguing their cases in court. Independent experts such as Sylvia can help us provide more affordable and collaborative alternatives and protect children from being innocent victims when their parents divorce.

Let us know what you think about other professionals helping family lawyers by either leaving a comment below, tweet us on @helpwithdivorce or email us at info@jonesmyers.co.uk.