Few parents take the decision to separate or divorce lightly. But the number of children who lose touch with one of their parents post breakup is huge: according to Amelia Hill in the Observer on 20 July 2008 "Almost a third of children never see one of their parents again after a family breakdown, with one in five losing contact as soon as the non-resident parent - usually the father - leaves home."
Should we stay together for the sake of the children? It is a question on many of our client’s lips. There’s no easy answer here – it all depends.
It all depends on:
- What stage of the marriage breakdown you have reached;
- How you both behave;
- Whether or not you decide that a detached relationship is better than a divorce.
There are many stages of marriage breakdown and they can take years to progress. I use Kessler’s The 7 Stages of Marriage Breakdown
To highlight just how different people move through different stages at different times. If you are at the disillusioned stage, can it be reversed? This can be the most intense stage as each partner tries to get from the other what they want in order to sustain the marriage. Children may hate this struggle but the parents may be able to hide it successfully.
If you are becoming estranged, into the second stage, you may be considering whether you can live with this for the sake of the children. Children can live with parents who are distant or detached as long as they are not distant or detached from them. It depends on how the adults conduct themselves.
If you decide to maintain a detached marriage (which may or may not get better) you may have to face the fact that marriages in this condition are vulnerable to the next stage, as detachment may lead to the search - overt or acknowledged - for another close relationship. How will this affect your children?
Your children will be affected by this if they are aware of it. The crucial factor is whether the parents can preserve the family and their relationships with their children.