It's always difficult when a relationship breaks down to know what to do next; sometimes you have to stay living in the same house together. What if one party still wants the relationship to continue? What if you have children? What is the best way to deal with it all?
There are so many questions that people want to know the answer to, and whilst we as lawyers can help with the legal side, sometimes you just want to check that you are doing the right thing and making the best decisions possible for your children.
So, here are my top 5 tips for making arrangements for the children when a relationship breaks down:
1) Talk to Each Other
So many people that we speak to don’t communicate with one another. Whilst in some cases there are reasons not to communicate, for example; domestic violence, the majority of couples are still able to talk to one another. More importantly, you are not talking to one another about each other, but about the children. You will need to work together for many years to come and therefore it is important to keep lines of communication open from the word ‘go’.
2) Make a Plan
The breakdown of a relationship is not only confusing for you but also for your children. Imagine it from their perspective, depending on their age, they may not really understand why Mummy & Daddy are not together anymore and what could be more worrying than not knowing where you are going to live. All children benefit from having knowledge of where they are going to be and when. If you can sit down with your ex-partner and set out the arrangements for the children from the start, not only will it provide clarity for the children but also for both of you. If one of you is going to move out, then explain this to the children, and make it clear when they will see each of you. You could even put the plan upon your fridges so that the children can see where they are staying each night of the week.
3) Be Honest
Moving on from a relationship will inevitably involve new relationships. Some of these may be short, others more long term. The question is, when and how do you tell your ex-partner about your new partner. A lot of this depends upon how long it has been since your relationship has broken down, but generally the best thing is to be honest. If you try to hide the truth, or lie, it will only cause problems and arguments later down the line. Again, try to imagine the shoe being on the other foot; how would you like to find out about a new partner? How long would you like to wait to introduce a new partner?
4) Take it Slow & Stick Together
So what about actually introducing new partners to the children? What is the best way to do this? It is often best to introduce new people with the agreement of your ex-partner, and to do this gradually. There are a number of reasons for this, but the main one being that the children are more likely to accept a new person if both Mum & Dad support this. It can be very tempting to try and be derogatory about the new partner, but this will achieve very little in the long run and remember the shoe could be on the other foot in the future.
5) Be Nice & If You Can’t Be Nice, Be Civil
The bottom line is that if your children grow up to hear you and your ex-partner fighting constantly, it will negatively affect them. Children are very intuitive and will pick up on negativity. We appreciate that not all couples can be nice to one another, and get along amicably, but if you can’t, then for the sake of your children, at least remain civil. Remember your children learn from you and they will be watching everything you do. Your behaviour will dictate their behaviour.
Parenting is hard even when you are together as a couple, so of course it is going to be harder when you’re separated! Don’t expect it to be easy but remember that everything you are doing should be for the best interests of your children and you can’t go far wrong.
For more information see our free online Practical Guide to Relationship Breakdown.
By Rachel E. Furniss, a paralegal in the Family Law team at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Milton Keynes.
Slater and Gordon have the largest team of Family Lawyers in the country and offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Milton Keynes, Merseyside, Bristol, Newcastle, Halifax, Wakefield, Derby, Cambridge & meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire.