Is an Amicable Divorce Better for Children?

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A recent U.S. study has suggested that keeping an amicable relationship whilst divorcing your spouse does nothing to help your children adjust to the change. If anything, the study found that children whose parents were amicable were no worse off if their parents continued to argue after a divorce. But, how representative is this study? Should you give up trying to be amicable with your ex-spouse?

The study lasted a total of 6 years, but only examined 270 parents in that time. According to the Office of National Statistics 118,140 UK couples divorced in 2012, and 48% of them had at least one child under 16 living with the family.

Office of National Statistics Divorce graphicSource: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/divorces-in-england-and-wales/2012/sty-13-facts.html

Confusion over the "Best" Type of Split

The question at hand may not be 'were the parents amicable' but, what exactly is an amicable split? Smiling and acting civil in front of your children is outwardly amicable, but there may be bubbling resentment beneath the surface that they may notice. Some parents don't even realise they are damaging their children, even when they are trying to do their best to lessen the blow of a family split. Sometimes, acting isn't enough.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a social policy research charity, found that family conflict before, during, and after a divorce can affect the outcome of a child's behaviour in a negative way. Quality time with the non-resident parent can improve poor outcomes. This piece of research in particular goes to show that when parents can get along and share the parenting equally, even after a split, it can improve the behavioural prospects of their children.

Explaining to the child what and why the separation is taking place can help to build reassurances, that they are not being abandoned or forgotten by one parent when they leave the family home. It also goes some way to alleviate any confusion the child may feel at both parents getting along amicably, but still deciding to split.

Building Relationships for the Future

Building an amicable relationship between you and your ex-spouse is not only important for your child but for the long-term working relationship between parents. Having children is a lifetime commitment regardless of whether you are in a relationship or not. An amicable relationship can also go some way to making the process easier during a divorce when you are deciding on child arrangements.

Divorce will have some kind of negative effects in the short term concerning your child, but lessening the long-term effects can be achieved if the parents are willing to work together instead of against each other. Bickering and arguing will not get you very far in a child arrangement situation or in a courtroom with a judge.

Studies like this may portray the wrong message to couples who attempt to keep things amicable. Every situation involving families is individual to that particular family unit but one thing remains constant, an amicable split will always be more beneficial than an acrimonious one.


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