Children need support during tough times

Date: Sep 07, 2011

A study has been released that details the impact that negative atmospheres can have on children during a divorce.

The report was authored by family lawyer and law professor at Sydney University Patrick Parkinson - a figure considered to have been instrumental in the 2006 amendments to the Family Law Act.

These changes saw a shift in focus towards separated partners sharing the care of their children - common elements of the report released as part of National Child Protection Week on September 6.

Parkinson says that he was surprised by the findings of the report - with increases in social problems having a strong inverse correlation to the number of shared care arrangements as the result of a separation.

As an example, Parkinson said that his research showed that the numbers of children under the age of 15 who would experience the transition between partner cohabitation and having their parents living apart has almost doubled within a generation.

He said: "While not all problems faced by Australia's children today can, by any means, be attributed to the consequences of unstable and conflictual family relationships, the fragility of Australian families over recent generations has been a major contributing factor.

"This is not so much divorce, it's actually about the break-up of cohabiting relationships with kids, which are about four times as likely to break up as a married couple."

An important theme found in the relevant legislation is the protection of the rights of children.

Depending on the surrounding circumstances, a family unit that is in the process of a separation may experience increased levels of stress that could impact on all individuals concerned.

A divorce lawyer or family lawyer can provide clear advice of what is required during these proceedings, allowing partners to navigate the legislative environment by providing them with jargon-free, trusted advice.

Accessing these services may help individuals gain a clearer understanding of their legal obligations - removing communication barriers and potentially reducing the stresses associated with the official separation process.

Parkinson expressed concern over the findings of his study, saying: ''It is the cumulative impact of all the data taken together which is so troubling."

Couples undergoing separation would do well to gain family law advice from an accredited source that can engage with them to take their situation into account. However a family lawyer can only help with the legal aspects of relationships. Particularly where there is the possibility that children will suffer from the instability or conflict which is sometimes present when relationships break down, the parties should also seek the assistance of qualified counsellors (or sometimes a doctor). A good family lawyer can assist in locating counselling services.