OPINION: Children must be central in all thoughts when it comes to divorce

Nicola Walker who plays Hannah in The Split

Nicola Walker who plays Hannah in The Split - Credit: BBC

A coincidence yet fascinating juxtaposition that a no-fault divorce came into force as millions of viewers are glued to gladiatorial divorce lawyers in BBC drama The Split.

Divorce, however it is done, is horrible – painful, destructive, exhausting, and sad.

Like weddings, divorce is an industry where people make, and lose, a lot of money. One cashes in on happiness and hope, the other on loss and The End.

Caught in the crossfire of most divorces are children, at serious risk of lasting damage of what they witness as their family disintegrates.

For some growing up in a raging battleground of warring parents, an end might be a relief, but there will always be the fear of unknown, change and what’s to come.

Hostility, point-scoring, resentment harms children, their present and their future. Who knew?

Children’s wellbeing must always be central to any relationship break up. Parents have a duty to protect their children from harm.

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But being a grown up is hard. I’ve yet to meet a perfect parent, or a divorced parent who didn’t put a foot, or their mouth, wrong at some point in the harrowing process, however hard they tried.

We are human and navigating a marriage break-up and keeping children happy, a family, home and jobs spinning takes its toll.

Divorce demands gargantuan strength and self-control. Seeing the bigger picture, planning a new future while dismantling a past, while often suffocated by hurt, betrayal, disappointment, and a crushing feeling of surrender to the inevitable, is indescribable pressure.

Doing it all with a ‘service as usual’ smile for the kids and never slipping is nigh on impossible.

But being a parent means protecting children from what does them harm and, done badly, in anger, break-ups inflict harm and lasting damage.

We might not feel amicable, accommodating, and fair, but for the children we have brought into the relationship we must be.

Is there such thing as a good divorce? With the new no-fault divorce, there is hope.

It takes away some of the adversarial blame game of unreasonable behaviour or cheating.

It immediately sets a tone of working together for the best end of a marriage to start a new future in the most advantageous way for everyone, especially the children.

It might make people think more carefully before jumping. Grass is not always being greener.

But most people end up divorced because what has broken can’t be fixed. It’s a fact of life.,

Broken relationships don’t respond well to sticking plasters, though. Sometimes, matters have gone past the point of no return and are beyond repair.

Working together to shape a best future for everyone in the fragments of what is irrevocably broken is incredibly difficult, especially when the post brings uppity missives from lawyers with lists of our failings, accusations, cheap shots designed to further wound further and unreasonable demands.

Handling divorce properly means putting intense feelings to one side to be rational, logical, fair, and friendly for the sake of the best outcome for children when you can barely look at the other person. It is gut-wrenchingly challenging.

But it is doable. It must be to mitigate against avoidable anguish for children who have no choice.

There will always be anguish but managing this and keeping it to a minimum again lies wholly with the parents and their behaviour.

Everyone will mourn what should and could have been, some are angry by what has or might have happened, the couple wrestles with a massive sense of failure, loss, rebuilding and the inevitable judgement from others.

Having been through a divorce, I can now understand why people avoid marriage in the first place.

It is the hardest process. I cannot fathom how people do it more than once, and I admire the triumph of hope when people enter subsequent marriages.

It appears unhappy couples have been waiting for the no-fault divorce. In its first week of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act, 3,000 applications for separation were lodged.

It should give us hope that people want to do it well and kindly for everyone.

Chores proposal wouldn't work here

On the subject of domestic harmony, or otherwise, almost half of French people back a proposal to make it a criminal offence work-shy spouses and partners to shirk domestic chores.

This made me laugh out loud, mainly at the thought of the British police’s reaction if it ever was mooted here.

Sandrine Roussea, a self-proclaimed eco-feminist, is pushing for “an offence of non-sharing of domestic chores” because she believes private lives are political.

A poll of 1,992 people believed she has a point. A total of 50 per cent of women and 44 per cent of men approved of the idea to report idle partners to the police, prompting an investigation and a possible prosecution.

Roussea points out that things have hardly progressed at all since the 1970s, with French men increasing the time they spend on domestic chores by 14 minutes in four decades – with that rate of change it would take 6,300 years to achieve equality in France.

Women, meanwhile, spent an average of 10 hours 30 minutes a week to housework

I feel a campaign coming on …