With divorce comes a multitude of questions and concerns including future living situations, dividing of finances and uncertainty regarding custody arrangements. Yet, the most common concern parents have when seeking a divorce is for the welfare and protection of their children.

When a family breaks apart it will invariably be stressful for a child and each one involved will react differently according to their age, temperament and the particular circumstances of the separation or divorce. Often the reactions present as shock, anger, depression, frustration, and anxiety.

However, our children are usually more resilient than we give them credit for and they can often come out the other end more flexible and tolerant, with mature coping mechanisms for stress.

Thankfully, there are supportive strategies that parents can utilise to reduce the psychological effects of divorce on their children and help them adjust with the drastic changes happening in their lives.

Children’s Safety

The safety and physical, mental and emotional well-being of your child is the first and foremost responsibility at this time. If you have immediate concerns for your child’s safety, or your own, call 000 now.

The Australian Government has set up an initiative called Family Relationships Online which provides thorough information regarding the physical protection of your child.

There you will find contact details for Child Wise and 1800RESPECT, both agencies are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all children and offering services such as counselling and community support.

Talking to Your Child

Children want and deserve to be presented with the truth and they absolutely need reassurance that they are loved and are not the cause of their parent’s separation. While they may not understand the reasons their parents want to separate or divorce, talk to them about the facts, keeping it simple and avoiding critical language about the other parent.

Services for Children

Often parents may feel that they cannot offer the support their child needs during the often stressful time of a separation or divorce. In this instance it may be useful to seek additional assistance to provide the care that they require.

Providing opportunities for your child to express their thoughts and feelings can help young ones adjust to changes.

Supporting Children after Separation is a program that offers age-appropriate approaches to support children who need help in understanding their parents’ separation and individual and group sessions that help them cope.

Family Relationships Online provides detailed information on the Supporting Children after Separation program and lists other services and helplines available.

Children and Family Law

Under the Family Law Act 1975, there is a presumption that parents share equal responsibility for their children while they are under the age of 18. This means that both parents have an equal obligation in making decisions for their child.

When making legal decisions regarding children the most important thing to consider during this time is what is in the best interests of your child. Often, through diplomatic discussion, divorcing or separating parents can come to an agreement on the division of care for their child. For the emotional well-being of your child during this time, this is the preferred method.

Sometimes circumstances don’t allow for parents to collaborate constructively. In this case, specialised mediation services can provide assistance in coordinating discussion and arriving at mutual approved decisions.

When mediation fails, the decision can be brought before a judge in a family law court. Here a judge will determine what is in the best interest of the child in keeping with the Family Law Act and issue the parents with an order. See here for more information on what you need to know about Parenting Orders.

Considering and making arrangements for financial support is also crucial to the ease in which your child can adjust to separation and divorce. Being able to determine this without the assistance of the family court is in the best interests of your child. A child support assessment can be applied for where a mediator is needed.

With almost 88,000 families on the Central Coast and separation and divorce rates at 14.9% (higher than Sydney) the well- being of our children is of significant concern. Many instances will inevitably require the assistance of an experienced divorce lawyer and/or mediator, but we can take steps toward protecting those we love most and arrive at solutions that place their well-being above all else.