Should children decide who to live with after a divorce?

No one gets married and has children expecting to divorce and knowing how to divide the family so the children are impacted in the least possible way is not easy and there is no one answer.

Presuming that there has been no domestic abuse and neither parent is going to be either a physical or emotional danger to their children then the parents need to decide, with the help of their family solicitors, who the children will be spending time with and when.

For many parents this can be a huge decision, even if both parents are working together amicably. It can be tempting to let the children decide what they want to do, but is this the best thing to do?

Although it is important to communicate openly with your children during your divorce and to ensure they know their feelings are being heard, placing the pressure of the decision solely on them is not a good idea.

No matter how smooth a divorce, children are always unsettled, even if it is for a short time, and as they are young they won’t know how to communicate their emotions clearly. Their lack of ability to communicate at an adult level can lead them to make poor decisions and to handle things in a way that you may not expect.

It will also be very difficult for children to fully understand the causes of the divorce. If one parent has left or had an affair, then it is not uncommon for children to place the full blame on the remaining parent as they feel that the parent should have protected them from the hurt that they are now feeling. They will often side with the parent who has not been the main carer, no matter the circumstance of the divorce.

As well as this, children may feel the burden of the decision and to attach too much meaning to it. They may fear rejecting one parent and hurting them.

For many people the best approach is to ask the children if they have any preferences but to frame it around convenience of school, hobbies and friends, rather than parental preference. Once you have taken what they say into account you should then work with the other parent and your family solicitor to come to the best arrangement that suits everyone and will fit in around the children’s education and schedules.

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