When children are older, there will often be particular challenges for them in coping with their parents’ separation

Older Children and Divorce

The best for your children We encourage parents to place their children's needs at the heart of the process


Court orders made on divorce or separation won’t generally cover older children (those of 16 and above). Older children may well have independent lives and so are not swept up and involved in the day to day impact of the family breakdown (and where they are, they can often retreat from the challenges of all that is going on).  Parents may have the professional support of lawyers and therapists but the children may well have none. While parents make the decisions, children may be trying to work out what is going on and how any decisions taken by their parents may affect their lives. Parents may be focused on their own survival and futures while children may be tip-toeing around seeking to avoid making the situation worse (without necessarily knowing what they need to avoid). And where children are brought in as support or confidantes against the other parent, it can be hard on them indeed.

Children often have no professional support allocated to them to help them make sense of what is happening and they will generally have poor information about what is going on anyway. The people to whom they would usually turn (their parents) will, according to the research, be so caught up in their own tortuous journey through all the challenges of  divorce and separation that they may struggle to meet the increased demands for support from their children. Where parents try to help, there is a narrow path between giving needed information and avoiding making things worse or facing criticism from the other parent.

When children are older, there will often be particular challenges for them in coping with their parents’ separation, as they struggle to make sense of how this change of identity, lifestyle, expectations (and perhaps even family membership) affects them. They may benefit, in particular, from emotional and practical support and our talented team of divorce and family lawyers can help to point them in the right direction to access the most appropriate support. Our Parenting After Parting workshops can also help parents to prioritise child-focused ground-rules.

At Family Law in Partnership we have a team of highly experienced counsellors Jo Harrison, Ruth Smallacombe and Dominic Raeside, with a wealth of expertise in helping families, including older children, cope with the emotional questions raised by divorce and separation. Our counsellors specialise in the complexity of relationships and offer a place to reflect on any aspect of the family breakdown and the decisions associated with it in a confidential, stigma-free way. Two of our counsellors can support children and young people on a one to one basis.

You might want to take a look at some of our blogs which deal with older children and divorce: