Conclusion

Separation and divorce is always a distressing dispute for children but it is known that after the initial crisis, if the parents manage themselves and the situation well enough, many children recover and can get on with their lives reasonably well. This is in contrast to public law disputes, reception into care, long-term fostering or adoption (except perhaps that of babies below six months who are adopted) where there are particular adjustment problems. These are the children who have more conflicts, are disrupted, are often moved and regularly lack even one parent to provide continuity.

But all the children in divorce, residence and contact disputes, and in care and adoption proceedings, want to be heard and want to be told what is happening but usually do not want the burden of choosing where to live and with whom. The exceptions to this are many adolescents who do need to be involved in the decision-making. All these children and young people want to be valued and respected, and want to understand.

Some of these children will have transient difficulties; others will have more extensive emotional, behavioural and educational difficulties. They will need a range of inputs, such as individual work, group work, family work, and support from substitute carers, teachers and the extended family to try to prevent long-term problems.

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