At divorce and separation time, the children want to be heard

June 7, 2018
Article Source
The Lawyer's Daily

From a column in The Lawyer's Daily: Recent research from Rachel Birnbaum and Michael Saini provides fascinating insight into children's experience of their parents' separation and their participation in family law disputes.

In "A Qualitative Synthesis of Children's Participation in Custody Disputes," Birnbaum and Saini examine 35 qualitative studies conducted in 11 different countries involving more than 1,325 children to answer two questions: what do children say about their involvement in decision-making processes; and, whether and how children's voices are heard when their parents separate.

Birnbaum and Saini found that children want to be included in the processes that craft parenting plans for their care after separation. Children want to be consulted to be acknowledged, to exercise personal autonomy and to be better informed about the decisions being made. They do not want to have to choose between their parents but instead provide input on the arrangements made for their day-to-day care, believing that their involvement would lead to "more informed decision-making and better outcomes." Children prefer to be involved in the decision-making process early on, including at their parents' decision to separate.

Children want to be treated with respect, to be acknowledged and to be listened to in an authentic manner. Children who were allowed the opportunity to participate in an authentic way reported experiencing the change in their families as positive and were able to "maintain positive relationships with both parents." However, the children in the studies reviewed also described feelings of "vulnerability, change and loss," and expressed anxiety about being asked to choose between parents.

In "A Scoping Review of Qualitative Studies about Children Experiencing Parental Separation," Birnbaum and Saini examine 44 qualitative studies undertaken in 13 different countries involving more than 1,525 children to see what evidence exists about children's views and experiences of their parents' separation and how their views are heard.

Read more: At divorce and separation time, the children want to be heard