Disputes involving children

Disputes involving children are common when parents are going through a divorce, separating or when disagreements between family members arise. The needs of those children can sometimes become lost as they become part of what is happening between the adults. Unfortunately research shows that children do suffer in the breakdown of adult relationships, although they can and do recover and grow to be healthy and well adjusted. 

Examples of common disputes concern where children should live and with whom, or children not being returned home or being removed from a parents’ care, or the arrangements for children to see their parent or family members and who they can be brought into contact with. Sadly there are a wide variety of day to day decisions concerning children which can result in disagreement between adults.

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What do children want?

Children need to have safe and happy homes and secure relationships with both parents as well as other family members if at all possible. A common theme has emerged for children when asked what they want when their family is changing and they face separation:

  • They want both parents to be involved in their life
  • They want the adults to stop fighting and to get along
  • They want to feel able to love the adults in their lives and to enjoy the time that they spend with them
  • They want the adults to speak to each other directly and not to send messages through them
  • They want the adults to say nice things about each other or to say nothing at all if this is not possible
  • What they don’t want is to be expected to take sides

What practical tips are there?

Avoid blaming or being critical of the other person. Show restraint and as much as possible present a united front.

Give the children age appropriate information. Pick and choose how much to tell children and always think carefully about how information may affect them. Be age aware and no matter how much or little information is given, remember to be honest. 

At times of dispute, concentrate on what is important rather than wanting to achieve everything on a 'wish list'. Look at the bigger picture and consider the importance of everyone’s wellbeing. 

What are the warning signs?

Children struggling to cope emotionally with the situation around them can start to express their feelings in a variety of ways.  These can include:

  • Sleep problems
  • Poor concentration
  • Trouble at school
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Angry or violent outbursts
  • Withdrawal from people they love
  • Refusal to do activities they love
  • Self injury, cutting or eating disorders

If a child is exhibiting any of these signs it is important that they receive full support from the adults in their lives, that consideration is given to approaching their GP, their teachers or consulting a specialist for advice.

If you would like to speak to a children law specialist in relation to a dispute contact us on 0203 816 0548 or complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you directly.

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