Children's Matters

Children and separation.

What happens to children after separation?

Like adults, children react in different ways to separation or divorce. How they react often depends on the child’s age, temperament and the level of cooperation or conflict between the parents.

For children up to 5 years old, family breakdown can be difficult to understand. Older children can also experience a time of confusion and uncertainty even though they are more able to understand what is happening.

The way parents or other family members react and adjust to the separation makes a big difference to how children feel. Continued fighting can hurt children more than the separation itself.

However, if children are supported and encouraged to maintain a positive relationship with both parents, grandparents and other relatives, they are more likely to adapt to the changes. It is a stressful time for children, but most recover and lead normal lives. Children from separated families can develop and flourish just as well as other children, especially if they continue to have supportive and caring relationships with parents and other significant people in their lives, like grandparents, and other relatives. 

Making arrangements work for children. The children need both of you.

Even though you are separating, you are both still parents and you are the most important people in your children's lives. The best arrangements for the future are those where:

  • the children continue to have a loving and meaningful relationship with both their parents and other family members
  • both parents continue to share responsibility for their children
  • the children live in a safe environment, with no violence or abuse.

What do you need to consider?

When making arrangements for children, you will need to consider:

  • whether it is reasonably practical for the children to spend equal time or substantial and significant time with each parent (substantial and significant time includes weekends, school holidays and days other than those)
  • how their time will be spent with other significant persons in their lives, such as grandparents and other relatives
  • who will look after them after school
  • where will they spend holidays
  • any other things such as choice of school, health care, sport, or religious matters, and
  • how to ensure that the children continue to enjoy their culture

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