As a basic unit, Family institution has had a significant part in the stability of human societies. Strong admonitions against breaking up the marriage relationship have been voiced, both by those who are religiously devoted as well as on a professional level. The basis of such strong regard for the marriage is commonly the welfare of the mates as well as of the children. The great value of the family relationship is further stressed by the fact that the institution satisfy our basic human need for companionship and support. The warm and nurturing environment of the family generally proves beneficial for children as well as the stability of the society.
Given the above, this article seeks to explore some of the dangers of dissolving a marriage and how parties to a divorce can counter such impacts for the benefit of all– the children and the society.
Divorces are not uncommon; they have been allowed under certain grounds from antiquity to date, nor can we even imagine that they will not continue. Those who divorce are not necessarily the most unhappy, they are just those who neatly believe that their misery is caused by one another and as such, usually what happens during a divorce is that the dissolution is accompanied by great animosity and hostility on the part of the parting spouses, hence some hold the view that ‘divorce is probably as painful as death’.
HOW ARE THE CHILDREN IMPACTED?
“When two bulls fight, it is the grass that suffers”, that is to say, when parents square up without proper consideration for the children, the latter being the weak suffer great harm. Some parents even go to great lengths such as using the children against each other and even depriving the children their other parents contact, time and attention. The results:
- Loss of Interest in Social Activity
Research has suggested divorce can affect children socially, as well. Children whose family is going through divorce may have a harder time relating to others and tend to have less social contacts. Sometimes children feel insecure and wonder if their family is the only family that has gotten ‘broken’.
- Introduction of destructive behavior and emotional sensitivity
While children go through a divorce, unresolved conflict may lead to future unexpected risks. Research has shown children who have experienced divorce were more likely to participate in crimes, rebelling through destructive behavior which harms a child's health. On the other hand, more children have reported that they have acquired smoking habits, or prescription drug use. Divorce can also bring several types of emotions to the forefront for a family, and the children involved are no different. Feelings of loss, anger, confusion, anxiety, and many others may all come from this transition.
Divorce can leave children feeling overwhelmed and emotionally sensitive and this can negatively impact them as future adults and how they as part of the society contribute to its general stability, hence we normally encounter phrases such as ‘broken people from broken families’.
HOW THE DIVORCING PARTIES CAN CONSIDER THE BEST INTERESTS OF THEIR CHILDREN:
The office of the Family Advocate
The Family Advocate (aided by a family counsellor) assists the parties to reach an agreement on disputed issues such as custody, access and guardianship by instituting an inquiry. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the Family Advocate evaluates the parties’ circumstances, considering the best interests of the child and makes a recommendation to the Court.
In the case of financial abuse or deprivation, maintenance court may be approached particularly on behalf of the minor child’s financial needs. It is worthy to note that the parents duty to pay maintenance and their right of access to the children are two entirely separate matters and one has no relation to the other, likewise, the other parents view of the other parent's behaviour has no effect on their children's right to maintenance.
Divorcing Parents will surely do right by their children as well as the well being of the general society by considering and minimising the harmful impact their dissolution of their marriage may have on their children. It is wiser to consult competent professionals to assist, such as seasoned family law legal practitioners and duly head their well-intended advices. By doing this, divorced parents can rightly say: ‘We are divorced, and we are good parents.’
- Constitution of South Africa, 1996 (section 28).
- Child Care Act 74/1983 (section 14).
- Children’s Act 34/2005.