Divorce and separation are becoming a familiar experience for more and more Australian families, and though it is often one of the hardest things a person will go through in their life, many times it is the right thing.
Yet, while the end is ultimately the same in each case, the journey to divorce can vary widely, with long term and often detrimental effects on the children of separating families. Children may not always show signs of trauma in ways parents expect, but that does not mean the impacts are not being deeply felt.
“Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same”.
Impact on Children
The truth is, that children will always experience some degree of emotional turmoil when the central structure in their lives, their family, is dismantled. But the amount and length of that suffering is largely determined by the attitude adopted by their parents. One approach is for parents to make their best attempts to be congenial and respectful to each other, focussing on the needs of their children rather than their own. On the other hand, parents who actively undermine, insult and denigrate each other will only intensify the confusion and anxiety of their children. Additionally, such rivalry may compel these children to side with one parent over the other, leading to distorted relationships and inner conflict.
CASE STUDY 1: Alec and Kim
Alec and Kim were married in 1993 and their daughter, Ireland, was born 2 years later. By the time Ireland was 5, the marriage was unravelling and after four more years, the couple split. The separation was messy with hurtful accusations being thrown at each other, each blaming the other side for the failure of the relationship. Unable to reach an agreement in relation to the custody of the 11 year old Ireland, the couple landed up in the family courts. The battle continued during which it began to appear that Ireland had become a pawn in each side’s game plan. Dad claimed that Mum had turned Ireland into a spy, telling her to report back on her father’s actions during her time with him. Mum claimed that Dad had psychological and anger management problems and needed help. This constant positioning of the child between the two parents erupted in a voice message which Alec left on his daughter’s mobile:
Pick up the goddamn phone. You got a call coming in, you think I made it because I’ve got nothing better to do?[…]I’m a good father, and you’re a pig. I don’t give a sh*t…You better be ready Friday the 20th to meet with me. Pig. Oh, also, tell your mother I said “Go f**k yourself.” This is Dad, ring me back when you get a chance.
The abusive message is indicative of this father’s failure to understand the emotional hurt and psychological damage that can result from such a careless lack of insight into his daughter’s situation.
The case finally resolved, after two years of court battles, thousands of hours, hundreds of thousands of dollars and an unquantifiable amount of emotional distress. The outcome was joint custody.
CASE STUDY 2: Miranda and Orlando
Miranda and Orlando met in 2007 and dated for three years before marrying. Five months later their son Flynn was born. Despite a loving relationship, the couple decided to go separate ways in 2013 when Flynn was aged two and a half years. Flynn’s parents made a concerted effort to insulate their son from any pain or hurt, going to extraordinary measures to keep things as amicable as possible. They were often seen hugging and kissing each other at changeovers and smiling at Flynn. Dad was overheard saying “We both adore and love our son…[and] realize that we’re going to be in each other’s lives for the rest of our lives, raising our son”.
The end result is the same as in the previous case study: joint care of their child. But the process adopted by each set of parents will forever impact their children, for the good or bad.
Divorce and separation is a difficult process for parents and children. If you’re looking for information, interested in ways to handle the process yourself or need full legal representation, Warlows Legal can help you move forward.