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Keeping kids first helps minimise fallout from family breakdown

An Oakham family lawyer is campaigning for a change in the law to reduce the fallout from divorce on children, after figures released today revealed the impact of conflict between separating parents.

In a new poll, 79 per cent of the population agreed conflict from divorce or separation can negatively affect children’s mental health, a figure rising to 87 per cent among those who experienced their parents’ divorce as children. 77 per cent said conflict could affect children’s academic performance and a further two-thirds felt social interactions and the ability to form healthy romantic relationships were also jeopardised.

James Belderbos from Bird Belderbos & Mee based in Church Street, Oakham, made the calls as part of national Good Divorce Week that is being led by Resolution, who campaign for a fairer family justice system and commissioned the new YouGov poll.

Good Divorce Week aims to provide practical help, highlighting ways for separating parents to put their children’s needs first, as well as calling on government to urgently remove blame from the divorce process.

Resolution – We Need To Talk from Resolution on Vimeo.

As 200,000 people divorce each year in England and Wales, an overwhelming 79 per cent of the public support measures that would remove blame from the divorce process, with 71 per cent believing change is urgently needed to reduce the negative impact on children.

James explained that while most parents he works with want to keep a child’s best interest at the forefront, the current fault-based divorce system can make this a challenge.

He added: “Each day I work with mothers and fathers to help them resolve their issues in a way that provides a fair outcome to everyone in the family, especially any children. But often, even with the most amicable break up, the requirement to apportion blame for the breakdown of the marriage can create unnecessarily conflict that can threaten the entire process.

“Currently, unless a couple can prove they’ve been separated for two years with consent or five years without, the only way to get a divorce is to attribute blame. Around 60 per cent of divorces in England and Wales are based on fault such as adultery or behaviour, compared with only six to seven per cent in Scotland, where the law is different.”

Many couples are surprised that they cannot just cite irreconcilable differences, which is a concept from the United States of America, or say they have grown apart. With 90 per cent of professionals saying current law makes it harder to reduce conflict between exes, Resolution has been campaigning for decades to remove blame from the divorce process. Evidence shows the impact of conflict stemming from the requirement to blame can have a detrimental effect on the couple and any children they may have.

James added that Resolution has resources available, to help campaign to change the system and raise awareness of the long-term impact this conflict can have on children. These are available at www.resolution.org.uk/GoodDivorceWeek

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