When children are exposed to their parent’s conflict, which is frequent, intense and poorly resolved, it can be extremely harmful to them. This applies to children of all ages, even if the conflict is non-violent. It can manifest itself as increased anxiety, depression, aggression, hostility, anti-social behaviour and criminality. It can also affect the child’s emotional, cognitive and physical development and impact upon academic achievement.

As a mediator and a collaborative lawyer, I always emphasise to my clients the importance of trying to deal with their separation in a way that is child focussed and which minimises the impact of any conflict on the child.

If children are able to see their parents resolving matters in a mutually respectable way, they are more likely to develop their own conflict resolution skills and will therefore be better equipped for adult life. For some clients, it is appropriate to consider whether any additional support is required to help them manage their separation in a child friendly way. Referrals may be appropriate to other professionals, including counsellors, psychotherapists, life coaches or health care professionals.

In cases involving high parental conflict it may be appropriate to consider an intervention programme such as the one offered by Tavistock Relationship, which helps families to rectify the negative consequences that stress and family breakdown can have on both the children and their parents. Such a programme can help to break a cycle of poorly resolved conflict and then reduce the likelihood of those children experiencing similar relationship problems later in life.

I am a member of Resolution. This is a family law organisation, which promotes amicable resolutions to the breakdown of a relationship. Their website provides invaluable information to parents to help them focus on the needs of their children when managing the transition from being a family under one roof to being a family in two separate households. The Resolution website also provides details in relation to the Parenting Apart Programme which is specifically designed to support parents through separation and divorce, while focusing on the emotional wellbeing of their children. If parents are able to resolve matters by agreement, whether on their own or with the support of their solicitor, not only will they keep their legal fees to a minimum, but they are more likely to promote the future mental and physical health of their child