Your separation should not divide your family (By Linda Nell).
While a legal divorce is an event, an emotional divorce is a process that occurs minimally over several years and maximally over the course of a lifetime.
Typically, divorce proceedings begin several years before the actual date of separation. It starts when one of the partners begins to experience feelings like disillusionment, dissatisfaction, anxiety, and alienation.
As part of the family structure children experience similar feelings of insecurity and disillusionment.
In helping couples to successfully negotiate the ending of their marital relationship, it is vital for the divorce professionals to understand the underlying dynamics of the family as a system, especially the traumatic experience it has on the children.
Ahrons & Rodgers point out: “The family going through a divorce does not break up but rather is restructured and reorganized. While marriages may be discontinued, families especially those in which there are children…continue after marital disruption. They do so with the focus on the two ex-spouse parents now located in separate households” This arrangement is difficult for children to adapt to.
The presumption is that dysfunctional marital relationships cause dysfunctional behavior patterns in children. There is not a direct linear causality, but there is unmistakably a circular nature of causality in family interactions. The actions of the parents may influence the behavior of the children in the family to such an extent that the child is being reported by the school or other significant others as being naughty, disobedient, ill-disciplined and or acting out behavior.
Although divorce is an experience of growth, change, and positive individual development for some, it is a psychological and emotional death for others. For most families (parents and the children) it is a time of tremendous stress, disruption, chaos, uncertainty and craziness.
With the appropriate help from understanding and knowledgeable professionals, the process of divorce can be navigated successfully.
Although a couple separate, both parents will have full responsibilities and rights towards the minor children (Children’s Act, Act no 38 of 2005, section 18). The parental responsibilities and rights that a person have in respect of a child include:
- To care for the child;
- To maintain contact with the child;
- To act as guardian of the child; and
- To contribute to the maintenance of the child.
Divorce/Couple/Family mediation can provide a more courteous alternative to separation or divorcing parties to negotiate a settlement. In mediation, solutions are sought which consider the needs of all family members – mediation, as far as possible, aims for a win-win outcome, where both parties feel they have equally compromised on issues.
The parties negotiate for themselves and aim for outcomes which meet their own standards of fairness and which are in the best interest of their children. Mediation furthermore provides an experience for future resolution of conflict.
Mediation, according to John Haynes (A guide to divorce mediation 1989), is:
- It is non-adversarial – the parties are partners in decision-making.
- It is mutual –both parties must agree, or it does not work.
- It empowers – each spouse controls the decisions regarding his or her life.
- It is goal-directed – the focus is on the future lives of the parties and their children
- It is confidential – unless there is a legal duty on Mediators to disclose (e.g. where it is said or appears to be child abuse)
- It is voluntary.
Accredited mediators are specifically trained to do mediation and reach an agreement between the parents of minor children when the parents wish to separate. A parenting plan is then drawn-up once the parents have reached an agreement after mediation, to share the parenting of their children specifically on:
Care and primary residency;
The best interest of the child or children is paramount. The voice of the child must be heard (Professionals who are qualified to determine what a child’s views and wishes are in relation to the issue that affects their lives, will do the interviews or assessment of the child). The Children’s Act, no 38 of 2005 as amended, brought a lot of changes to deal with issues affecting children, as well as the rights and responsibilities of parents.
Child Welfare Tshwane has well trained accredited mediators who do mediation on any conflict resolution matter regarding families and children.
Our vision at Child Welfare Tshwane is Safe children, safe families, and safe communities in Tshwane. We understand that a separation or divorce has severe impacts on the family and the functioning of the family unit, but we always keep the children’s best interest in mind. It is important for a child to still feel that he/she belongs and will be protected, even though the relationship of the parents have disintegrated.
For more information, contact Linda Nell or Winnie Moshupje on 0124609236.