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Advice: the importance of shared parenting on children’s wellbeing

Separation can be a time of great uncertainty for children, who worry when they will see each of their parents,…

Separation can be a time of great uncertainty for children, who worry when they will see each of their parents, which can sadly have a detrimental effect on their sense of belonging and wellbeing.

Vivienne Middleton, experienced family law specialist, explains the importance of reaching an agreement to maintain contact between children and separated parents, during a pandemic and beyond.   

For children whose parents have separated or divorced, it’s important they spend time with both of their parents for their own wellbeing, happiness and emotional security. When it comes to separation, parents are strongly urged to work together to reach an agreement, between themselves.  

Formal and informal agreements  

An informal agreement between both parents is bespoke, allows flexibility, and caters for the children’s and the parent’s needs, but are not legally binding. They require commitment from both parents to ensure consistency and stability for the children. When parents can set aside their own differences and focus on the children’s wellbeing, the arrangements are more likely to work, so they see enough of each parent to maintain a sense of belonging with both of them.  

Parents may also opt for a formal agreement. This could be drafted by solicitors, through voluntary mediation, arbitration, or a court order. The court will only intervene when one parent makes an application to the court. Litigation should be regarded as a last resort, generally after other forms of dispute resolution have been considered, but without success. 

Impacts of COVID-19 

For some families, maintaining contact between children and both parents has been significantly impacted by the pandemic. The lack of social interaction for children throughout the long periods of restrictions has heightened the need for them to spend time with the parent they no longer live with, to maintain their identity and vital sense of belonging. Nowadays, parents need to be creative with new ways of maintaining contact, for example, making frequent use of technology including video calls. 

For children to maintain relationships with both parents, there is a need for co-operative co-parenting, which supports the child’s emotional wellbeing, even during extraordinary circumstances, such as the pandemic.