Children being 'used' by bitter divorcees

Though most parents would consider their child's welfare a priority it seems children in England are all too often getting caught up in bitter legal actions by their divorcing parents. A new survey, carried out by law firm Mishcon de Reya, questioned 2,000 divorcees and a similar number of children who had experienced the break-up of the family home. Despite their best efforts, half of the parents surveyed admitted going to court over access or custody, while one in five wanted to damage their ex.

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The poll marks the 20th anniversary of the Children Act, designed to improve the welfare of children caught up in parental separation. But Mischon de Reya's report painted an unhappy picture. The results showed that two thirds confessed to indiscriminately using their children as "bargaining tools", while 20% admitted that they had actively designed the proceedings to make their partners experience "as unpleasant as possible", with little regard for their children's feelings.

Of the children surveyed, half said that their opinions had been disregarded by both parents and almost a quarter revealed that one parent had forced them to lie to the other. But the government insists that the 20-year scope of the survey meant that it was out of date.

England's Children's Minister Delyth Morgan told the BBC: "Divorce and separation can have a devastating impact on children caught in the middle. But this survey, looking as far back as 20 years ago, simply doesn't reflect what support is available for families now."

There are ways to make divorce less traumatic for your children. As hard as it may seem, avoid criticising your ex in front of the kids, while explaining the situation and what is going to happen may encourage children to be open about their own feelings – and, of course, taking the time to listen to their views is essential.

Do you have any suggestions on how to help children cope with a family break-up?