Written by Julia Brown

Principal Solicitor at Family Legal Solicitors

Julia has substantial experience of dealing with a wide breadth of legal matters, but has focused on private client family matters for the last eleven years.

The reality of life is that nobody lives in a fairy tale relationship these days and, even in a healthy relationship, there are going to be disagreements and at times arguments. If you have little ones, at some point whether you mean it or not, your little one is likely to hear yourself and your partner argue or disagree. Most of us would agree that this is never a positive experience for a child and if you have memories of your own parents arguing you will be able to empathise with the feelings it brings up whenthis sort of behaviour is witnessed in a household.

Ultimately, if you do find yourself in a relationship where you are being subjected to daily arguments, or even worse violence, this is something that should not be tolerated.

Given that it is often said that a healthy argument is part of a healthy relationship, how do we as parents think about dealing with such conflicts in a child- sensitive way?

Effect of arguments on children

A healthy relationship is one where, if the parties argue (and everyone argues from time to time) they are able to do so in a constructive way and come up with positive solutions. However, if you find yourself in a relationship where arguments are a daily feature and this is occurring in front of the children, then this is of course causing not only emotional stress to both the parties but to the children, and their wishes, feelings and welfare should be paramount for any parent.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that young children are too small to be affected by witnessing such behaviour as even very small children, babies and toddlers, are able to read emotional cues and can pick up on the fact that Mummy and Daddy are angry or upset. This can have an impact upon their own behaviour and sensitivities leading to both short-term and long-term stress and issues. Ultimately, if you do find yourself in a relationship where you are being subjected to daily arguments, or even worse violence, this is something that should not be tolerated.

Domestic violence

When people talk about domestic violence, they often think of physically abusive behaviour but domestic violence covers so much more than this and can be simply just someone asserting control, coercive or threatening behaviour. Quite often, it can be emotional abuse and verbal abuse.

If you find that you are affected by such abuse then you should immediately take steps to seek help for both yourself and for the children if they are witnessing such behaviour. There are a number of charities and organisations out there that can assist, including local Domestic Violence Units, the Police, Women’s Aid and Local Women’s refuges. If you find that you or your children are in any immediate physical danger, then you need to take steps to protect yourself from such abuse, including of course making the appropriate reports to the police.

When considering whether you should leave a relationship, you need to consider carefully whether the relationship is positive for yourself. Often, when people are in these situations they are full of fear; fear that they will have nowhere to stay and fear as to the financial repercussions of a separation.

Alternative accommodation

In terms of finding somewhere else to stay, you should immediately seek legal advice to consider your options: can you stay at home with the children; can you stay temporarily with relatives / friends; or should you seek alternative accommodation by way of a refuge or from the Local Authority housing.

A solicitor will be able to signpost you to relevant help relating to all of these issues. In terms of longer term solutions, your solicitor can give you advice as to whether you need to take further steps to keep your violent partner away from yourself and your children by way of a court injunction known as a Non- Molestation Occupation Order and will also be able to assist with practical matters such as how to obtain help with housing and various benefits, and how to deal with your long-term separation.

If you decide to leave and the immediate short-term issues are resolved, then a Family Law solicitor will be able to advise you as to the separation process. As part of that process they will be able to assist you with the arrangements for your children and also the arrangements regarding your financial affairs on a long-term basis.

Overall, do not let fear be the reason for staying in a relationship where you are arguing too much in front of your children as this is bound to have a detrimental impact on both them and on yourself.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you are deeply in love with your partner but unfortunately have issues which you are unable to resolve in a family focused way, it may well be that you need the assistance of some family therapy or counselling – this is something that could be explored between you both.

Whether you leave or not is of course only something you can yourself decide. However, noone should ever stay in a relationship because they are scared.

Remember, even if the abusive behaviour is something that you yourself are prepared to tolerate on a personal level, you as a parent have a duty to protect your children from harm.

 

 

 

 

 

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