Back in the summer of 2000, my parents made a decision that cannot come easily to any parent; they decided to get divorced.
I was nine years old at the time and my brother was 15, so understandably our reactions were worlds apart. I didn’t really understand why, whereas my brother not only knew why but also knew what it meant for our family going forward. We were never given the choice of which parent we wanted to live with (which I’m very grateful for) and the news of my parents splitting up was broken to me by my mum telling me we were going to live with our grandparents, and that Dad wouldn’t be coming with us.
At the time I remember there being tears, tantrums and a general feeling of not really ‘getting it’ – I was heartbroken, not just that we wouldn’t be living with Dad and – worse still for my nine year old self – that he was going to keep the Playstation I loved dearly!
17 years on, as part of Berwins’ Family team, I find myself dealing with clients every day who are going through divorce and all the troubles and stress that goes with that. One of the toughest aspects of my job is supporting clients who are arguing over the children – generally focusing around where they are going to live and who they are going to spend the holidays with.
I was very lucky in that both my parents kept these stresses away from my brother and I and we were never made to feel like a toy that neither of them wanted to share. Unfortunately, other children are not so lucky.
I have a lot of sympathy for clients who are worried and upset – divorce is a time of immense pressure and stress. Talking about the children really makes me realise how hard my own parents must have found it to argue until they were blue in the face to each other, but then act like everything was fine in front of me.
Ultimately, however hard it may be it is clear that putting children first has immeasurable benefits. For children the divorce process is traumatic enough, without being used as weapons in a battle. Taking the collaborative route not only helps to afford this protection but, by taking a constructive rather than confrontational approach, ensures that separated parents can communicate and make effective arrangements relating to their children for years to come.
No parent would ordinarily think twice about putting their child’s needs first. Collaborative family law helps to safeguard this natural parental urge when stress and pressure can all too easily influence decisions.
Kirsty Campbell is an Assistant within Berwins' industry rated family law team