Children’s Charity Says New No-Fault Divorce Law Could Help Reduce The Damaging Impact Of Conflict On Children

A legal change allowing couples to file for a ‘no-fault’ divorce in England and Wales, in effect from 6 April 2022, has been welcomed by national children’s charity. Spurgeons says it’s an important step to help children traumatised and separated from a caregiver as a result of conflict between parents, although more work is needed to establish a child-centric approach in the family separation process.

Ian Soars, CEO of Spurgeons Children’s Charity, says,

The new ‘no-fault’ law removes the need to assign blame to one party, hopefully helping to reduce the level and length of conflict during a separation.  Research by DAD.info, our advice and support hub for 40,000 fathers in the UK, reveals that the prospect of further conflict with a partner during a separation leads to one in three (35%)1parents losing valuable contact with their child/ren.

The study was conducted for DAD.info in May 2021 by Cint — and surveyed 745 respondents living in the UK with children under 18 from a previous relationship. Two out of three (59%) men and a quarter (24%) of women surveyed spent a period of time during the separation where they did not see their child/ren. The duration of this separation is longer for men, with a modal2 average of 1-3 months for men and 1-3 weeks for women.

Soars says,

Imagine a world where people going through a separation knew how to divorce better, were equipped to put their children first and successfully managed a cooperative parenting relationship. That’s an ideal that we want to help parents and children move closer to, because ultimately all the research shows this is what’s best for the children involved.

Family breakdown and relationship issues is also the leading cause behind Fegans services* school counselling referrals, based on approximately 450 sessions per week.

Sonia Winifred, a Fegan school counsellor for Spurgeons Children’s Charity, says, “The impact of family breakdown and divorce can have a devastating impact on the child or young person’s mental health1. They begin to display self-doubt, anxiety and blame themselves for the parents’ separation.  Most often the child or young person becomes the peacemaker, holding on to each parent’s welfare, which leads to ongoing trauma for them.”

Soars says,

Separation from a parent, unless there is abuse involved, is a great loss to child/ren and they need support from the very start of the process. That stands true for the parents as well. They often don’t fully understand the added logistical and emotional hurdles that they will face.

Our research showed that women (32%) are more likely to use informal support methods such as family members, the internet and books during a separation, compared to 24% of men — despite comparable use of more formal routes. That’s why we offer a free ‘Parenting after Separation‘ resource on DAD.info, to support parents who are going through a separation or are no longer living with their children. Given the insights from the survey, we particularly encourage fathers to engage with the course.

Helen Adam, chair of the Family Solutions Group (FSG) that works closely with Spurgeons family counselling services, says, “We can no longer ignore the mental health risks for children and parents by framing all family separations as legal disputes. If the only provision on offer is one which pits parents against each other during a time of already heightened emotions, then we are simply adding fuel to the fire of separation. We need a ‘family solutions system’ that avoids court unless it’s needed. Parents and children should be offered more information earlier in the process so they can choose the right route”

Parents seeking peer support, resources and advice on separation and divorce can go to DAD.info

Written by: Sarann Buckby

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