This case is an example of how bad things can get after divorce, for a couple and children involved but where mediation can really help all involved.
Divorced parents of three children, who have hardly said a word to each other in the two years since the breakdown of their marriage have been urged by a experienced family judge to start communicating and stop ‘dumping their dirty linen’ on their three young children.
The parents near total lack of communication was playing havoc with the lives of their children, two boys, aged 15 and 13, and a girl, aged 8. The boys, who were living with their father, had refused to have even the most minimal contact with their mother and only saw their sister, who lived with her mother, on Sundays.
Urging the parents to re-open lines of communication for the sake of their children, Mr Justice Peter Jackson noted that the little girl was currently ‘the only person who is willing to speak to everybody’ in the family and that that was ‘a lot to ask’ of someone so young.
couples 14-year marriage ended ‘in circumstances of great distress for all concerned’ and social services were heavily involved in dealing with the family breakdown. Following the split, a judge directed contact in a way designed to enable all the siblings to see each other and both parents. However, those arrangements had broken down due to the parents’ inability to speak to each other.
Expressing concern that the little girl might be ‘sucked into’ the poisonous family dynamic, Mr Justice Jackson said that the only ray of hope was that the parents now agreed that ‘something ought to be done’ and both supported attempts to re-establish the relationship between the boys and their mother.
Encouraging the divorced pair to give mediation a try, he added, “I do not, in any way, minimise the difficulties that existed in this marriage but there must come a time when the parents find a way of living with that and doing their best for these children…I would expect an ability to communicate in a practical manner, avoiding recrimination and gratuitous references to irrelevant grievances.”
He rejected the father’s arguments that his daughter should live with him and her brothers. However, he directed that that she should continue to spend Sundays with her father and that he should collect her from outside her mother’s house, ‘not using the boys as go-betweens’.
Stressing that the children’s welfare was his ‘paramount consideration’, the judge said he would be happy if the girl’s ‘enjoyable’ contact with her father and brothers were increased over time. However, he added, “I am quite clear that nothing much can change in the arrangements for the children while the relationship between the parents remains in its current shape. I think it unlikely that the boys will feel able to engage at all with their mother until they see their father doing so.”
The judge concluded that he didn’t need to set out exactly what the arrangements would be as “it is really up to the parents.”
Our solicitors in Ipswich can help with divorce and we have a mediator within the family team, Helen Stuart, who can help couples work together for the sake of their children, or to make the divorce process smoother including financial discussions. for more support or advice contact us on 01473 211121.