Jon Symonds

A new report has been launched, which provides evidence from parents and their children about their experiences when their parents separated. 

Although some parents use the family courts, many manage the process of separation without using the courts at all, and in this report, we explore the types of support that families drew on without the need to make applications to the family courts.

The evidence in this report is based on in-depth qualitative data from 42 mothers, fathers, and children. The study took place across Wales and south–west England. Participants used video reflections, prompted craft activities and online interviews to explain the decisions they made during the separation, the challenges they faced and the support they received.

Based on a thematic analysis of this data, we offer insights into what parents and children found valuable in managing and adjusting to the separation, as well as their reasons for using, or deciding not to use, the family courts. 

In terms of the views of children and young people, they told us that they want to have their voices heard in the separation. Some of the key findings from children, young people and parents were that –

  • The separation of parents affected children both emotionally and practically in their everyday lives. It was an upsetting time, and many found out about their parents’ separation in ways that did not help their understanding, contributing further to their distress.
  • Children and young people told us they had little information or participation in decisions that affected them. Some older children felt they had not been listened to in relation to court decisions about who they would spend time with, which left them feeling distressed.
  • Parents aimed to prioritise and protect children through the separation process. They gave examples of how they had attempted to suppress negative emotions towards their ex-partner for the sake of their children, and to resolve disagreements so relationships could be maintained. However, some reflected on how difficult this was while in emotional distress, and there were differences between some parents’ understanding of the impact on children and what children told us themselves.