Divorce lawyers have been criticised by the media following the results of a survey undertaken by Resolution of children who had first-hand experience of the difficulties of marriage breakdown during their childhood. Those children were asked if they thought that “despite my feelings at the time, I would rather my parents separated or divorced than stay together if they were unhappy”. Almost two thirds (60%) said they strongly agreed and a further 22% said they tended to agree. Only one in ten disagreed.
The Daily Mail ran the headline 'Guess who claims divorce is good for children – divorce lawyers, of course!'. But Veronica Gilmour, family partner in the Guildford office of Penningtons Manches, takes issue: “That is simply not true. What divorce lawyers are saying is that divorce does not necessarily have to be the worst outcome for children. If handled properly, it may be better than having a childhood blighted by living in an unhappy home with parents constantly arguing. Of course, the best outcome for a child is to come from a stable home with loving parents who enjoy a happy relationship but this is not always possible.
“Anyone who has practised family law for any length of time will know that the worst and most destructive situation for a child is to be used as a pawn in their parents’ divorce or where one parent becomes intractably hostile to the prospect of the child spending any time with the other parent.
“The real point of the survey, which is timed to coincide with Dispute Resolution Week, is to encourage separating couples not to go down the court route but to consider other forms of dispute resolution including mediation or a collaborative alternative. Resolution, the family law organisation that undertook the survey, is committed to encouraging people to separate in a constructive and amicable fashion. What Resolution aims to do and what DR week is all about is minimising conflict and encouraging and assisting people who have perhaps not had a good relationship to ensure that they can at least have a very good separation and ensure that the children’s needs are kept at the forefront of everyone’s minds throughout the process.”