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BC: Families and Society Divorce and the impacts on children By Heidi Mott Date :10/10/12

FC: Assignment 2: Divorce/ Separation and the impacts on family Student Name: Heidi Mott Student Number: 0061032483 Subject: EDO2104 Families and Society Due Date: 15/10/12 Word Count: 2224

1: The issue of Divorce Divorce is an international issue involving families; in most cases a very stressful event and is becoming a 'modern norm' with society. According to report 'Listen Up' (2005) around fifty thousand children of varying ages are dragged through their parents' divorce each year. Divorce or separation can occur for many reasons; generally it is parents with younger children and can be because of lack of communication, compatibility, emotional stresses, and a reasonably new issue of social media impacting on divorce rates. Whereas years ago divorce was the final resort for families involved in abuse or adultery (Sigelman & Rider, (2009).

2: Family counselling is to help families build stronger and more supportive relationships; counselling is a great resource through tough periods such as divorce and changes in living arrangements (family relationships, 2012). According to Stewart-Clarke and Brentano (2006) divorce affects all children differently, and without help divorce can have a long-lasting effect, impacting on their adult lives. Dealing with families in a counselling role, it is common to see divorce having an impact on the psychological development of younger children, bringing out issues such as fear, anxiety, depression, guilt and behavioral problems (Sigelman & Rider, 2009); while according to Stewart-Clarke, Vandell, McCartney & Owen (2000) children also suffer with behavioral problems, and engage in dangerous behavior.

3: What is commonly seen when parents are going through divorce, is parents becoming less sensitive to their childrens' needs and changing behaviors. This is where the influence of different parenting styles have further impact on their childrens' development, for example the custodial parent takes on a strict authoritarian role and the non custodial parent takes permissive style parenting (Sigelman & Rider, 2009). Divorce fits into family counsellors professional practice, helping children understand their feelings, look after their mental health and their welfare. It is obvious that divorce greatly effects children of all ages. According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, family counsellors are counselling around 30,000 families each year and say the children are the ones that suffer.

4: As seen on the graph above from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, this shows a slight decrease in the divorce rate since a peak in 2001.

5: However even with a decrease in the divorce rate, ABS table above shows that around half the divorces granted involve children.

6: The Media's thoughts: In the media, the general view of divorce and the impact of divorce on children is not good. Such as the ABC radio interview of professor Matt Sanders 'Effects of Divorce' (12/04/11) discuses the impacts in short term and long term and what is in the best interest of the child. 'Effects of Divorce' (12/04/11) gives a full interview of how to manage the impacts of divorce with the childrens' best interest at heart and when to seek family counselling. To view this interview visit

7: 'We make the disaster of divorce too easy' (2009), and 'Parental Obligations' (2012), both articles published in The Australian have a very similar perspective of divorce when children are involved, agreeing that parents are being 'selfish where there children are concerned' and that parents simply aren't looking after the needs of their children when seeking a divorce. Both articles agree that even 'a good' divorce will effect children. While 'Children struggle with maths and making friends when their parents divorce' (2011) a new study published in the Daily Telegraph points out the slower development in children from divorce.

8: 'Listen Up' (2005) is a television interview of children from divorced parents. 'Listen Up' (2005) shows the anguish that these children go through from different age groups, when their parents get divorced. 'Listen Up' (2005) also shares the same view as the previous articles mentioned that 'even the most amicable of splits will have life long effects.'

9: Biases, assumptions & understandings It's becoming increasingly obvious that divorce is never a black and white matter. With the knowledge of what kind of effect divorce has on children of all ages shows how important it is to seek professional help for children, considering that most children suffer from some form of mental illness, behavioral problems and/or slower developments when they are exposed to divorce. While, yes according to professor Matt Sanders 'Effects of Divorce' (2011) sometimes there is a sense of relief for children when their parents split and stop fighting, but it is important to have a plan put into action on how to best help children cope with the changes that accompany divorce, such as counselling.

10: It is assumed that all parents want the best for their children. In the instance of divorce, sometimes it is going to benefit the children, however in most cases the children just want a happy family according to 'Listen Up' (2005). It would be most beneficial for all families considering divorce to seek counselling and advice from their counsellor on how to make the impact on their children as minimal as possible. Divorce should not be the easy way out of a difficult situation, parents need to put their children first.

11: As a family counsellor, it is important to understand the legal implications of divorce. Being a family counsellor, understanding divorce law is important so the welfare of the children can be protected. For example it is important for the family counsellor to be aware of when the legal system will want families to visit with their counsellor and to gather useful information that the court will be likely to want to ensure the safety of the children. While getting to understand the dynamics of each different divorce case, the most important issue is to make sure the divorce will have the least impact on the children involved.

12: Must Known for Counsellors: For a family counsellor, it is very important that they fully understand the law surrounding divorce and how it impacts on children under the age of 18. Legally for a couple to get divorced they must satisfy the family court. According to the Family Law Court the married couple must apply and be able to prove they have lived separately for twelve months. The Family Law Act 1975 established the 'no fault divorce' principle, meaning the court wont consider the reason behind divorce unless circumstances require. WIth children under the age of 18, divorce can not be granted until appropriate arrangements are in place (Family Law Court).

13: The family law court requires parents to attend court proceedings if there is disagreement with custody. Providing joint custody is agreed on, no court proceeding are required. Understandably, for a counsellor each divorce case is different. A counsellor has a clear role to build and support relationships. The most important client to the counsellor is the child and to protect their welfare and rights. In every divorce where children are concerned, the counsellor must consider the relationship with each parent, the effects of separation from either parent, changes in living arrangements, ability of both parents to provide care and the mental health of the child (Edgar & Harrison, 1983).

14: A family counsellor can provide the family court with recommendations which will benefit the child, such as their preferred living arrangements, which according to the Family Law Court a child doesn't get a say until the age of 14. Anytime during legal proceedings the Family Law court can request a family to see a counsellor for recommendations on the welfare and needs of the child.

15: Ethically, for the counsellor it is important to be respectful of different cultures. Obviously the ethics are important in a family situation. The implications of confidentiality where children are involved is very important. Confidentiality is a grey area and depends on the age of the child. Either way it is important to discuss with the parents and children about confidentiality and informed consent aspects (Corey, Corey & Callanan, 2001).

16: Professional Learning: For a family counsellor, each case is always going to be different. Working with children on a professional level it is important to take time to understand their world and relationships. In some cases to help the children with their issues, the parents need to resolve their issues. So by helping the parents with issues and concern, the children will benefit (Sharry, 2004). The challenges to counselling families with children involve not influencing the childrens' thoughts or feelings and also not pushing our own morals on divorce or our opinions on the divorce. Therefore the counsellor must have good self-awareness, as to how they approach therapy (Sharry, 2004).

17: After gathering all this information on divorce and how children respond to divorce, it's alarming to see the number of family break downs. It would be useful to know how many of these families seek counselling before they come to the final decision and how many parents give thought to what affect it will have on children. It was also interesting to see that there is not really a good age for children to have their parents divorce. Divorce affects children through all age groups. As a result of what has been learnt throughout this book, it is clear that counsellors must have a very open and objective approach when dealing with children and hold their welfare at the highest level.

18: Ongoing learning will be required to keep up with the legalities of divorce. Also it is important to research new studies on the approach to be taken in a professional context to know the best way to deal with divorce cases involving children. It is also a good idea to keep up to date with the media's perspective to give a better understanding of the public's stance on divorce.

19: Where to find help: Relationships Australia provides support to families, individuals and communities all throughout Australia. They aim to help all to build positive and respectful relationships. Relationships Australia offer services such as counselling, family dispute resolution and education programs. They also provide Children's Contact Services to provide the children with support with changes in living arrangements and issues that arise when going through divorce. The counselling includes family and relationship counselling, which can be used before or after the divorce.

20: has everything a family needs to know about applying and understanding divorce. This site also has lawyers available to talk to and can apply for divorce online. This site also provides information on divorce with children and exactly how the process works. They can provide a timeline on how long to expect the divorce to take. provides all divorce details and laws. Knowing the process and your rights when thinking about applying for divorce is important to ensure a peaceful transition for children.

21: Mission statement 'To help couples like you and your partner, achieve a satisfying relationship.' Associated Relationship & Marriage Counsellors have fully trained and registered marriage and relationship counsellors to help couples resolve their problems before divorce becomes the only solution. Marriage counselling can build a stronger and more stable relationship for the whole family.

22: Reference list: Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2007). Divorce Granted. Retrieved from Brown, T. (2005, May 15). Listen Up. Sixty Minutes. Retrieved from www.sixtyminutes Associated Relationship & Marriage Counselling. (2010). Retreived from Clarke-Stewart. A., & Brentano. C. (2006). Divorce: causes & consequences. Yale University Press. Clarke-Stewart. A., Vandell. D., McCartney. K.,Owen. M., & Booth. C. (2000). Effects of parental separation and divorce on very young children. Journal of Psychology. 14, 304-326. doi: 10.1037//0893- -

23: Divorce can leave children struggling with maths and making friends says new US study. 2011, June 2). The Telegraph. Retrieved from (2011). Retrieved from Drake-Brokman, T. (2012, April 28). Parental Obligations.The Australian Retrieved from Edgar, D., & Harrison, M. (1983). Children's participation in divorce. Australian Institute of Family Studies. Retrieved from Family Law Court. Divorce and Separation. Retrieved from

24: Family Relationships Online. (2010). Australian Government Initiative. Retrieved from Relationships Australia. (2011). Retrieved from Sanders, M. (2011, April 12). Effects of divorce. ABC Radio. Retrieved from Sharry, J. (2004). Counselling Children, Adolescents & Families. Strength Based Approach. London: SAge Publications.

25: We make the disaster of divorce too easy. (2009, July 14). The Australian. Retrieved from

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