Dr Foster: a Stark Reminder why Children Should Never be Pawns in Parents’ Battles

Kate Banerjee
Partner and Head of the Children Department
Jones Myers Family Law Solicitors

The spotlight has fallen on youngsters who are caught in the explosive crossfire of warring parents following the volatile BBC melodrama, Doctor Foster.

The relentless and destructive behaviour of Tom’s divorced parents left the series on a cliffhanger, with the distraught 15 year old taking off on his own because all semblances of a normal family and school life had been stripped away.

The stark reality is that thousands of children and young people unwittingly find themselves trapped in the middle of constant conflict in the real world – irrespective of whether their parents are living together or apart.

Such damaging behaviour can not only affect youngsters’ mental health, the development of their social and emotional skills and academic achievements – it can also influence their ability to form future relationships

Responsible family lawyers put children at the heart of family law, always encouraging parents to work together to resolve their differences rather than engage in bitter conflict.

Couples who are not consumed by battles are more likely to strive towards supporting their offspring’s psychological and emotional needs. Failure to do so risks horrendous outcomes – as reinforced by Dr Foster’s conclusion.

I urge parents to choose collaboration over conflict at all times and follow these steps:

  1. Don’t use children as bargaining tools in your relationship with your ex – encourage them to see – and love – both parents.
  2. Linked with the above, don’t criticise your ex in front of them and avoid asking them directly or indirectly to take sides – no matter how resentful and bitter you feel about your former partner.
  3. Children need to feel loved by both parents as they struggle to come to terms with the breakdown of family life as they know it.
  4. Presenting a united front can help children to adjust. This includes agreeing on key areas such as bed times, amount of television or computer games and space and time for homework. For teenagers it extends to seeing friends and social/sports activities.
  5. Encourage your children to show a genuine interest in what they do during their time with the other parent.
  6. Listen to your sons and daughters; give them space and time to talk about their feelings.

I wholeheartedly understand that this guidance is given from the sanctuary of an office as opposed to the emotionally charged backdrops, which parents deal with daily when coping with their children and managing contact arrangements.

However, if both parents can draw on their inner strength to communicate with, and respond to, each other with dignity and care, they will reap the rewards of their children remaining loving and caring towards their mums and dads – and being considerably less likely to fall by the wayside of life.

About Kate Banerjee

Kate, Head of the Children Department at Leeds and London based Jones Myers, is highly skilled in cases relating to children including contact and residence disputes.

She specialises in child protection law and is a Member of the Child Care Panel with experience representing parents, guardians, Local Authorities and children.

As well as working regionally and nationally, Kate has considerable expertise in international child abduction cases and is a Member of the International Child Abduction and Custody Unit.

Kate has “Higher Court Rights,” which enables her to offer clients an all-round litigation service.


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