Q: I got divorced three years ago and our children live with me. My ex has regular access to them, taking them out and such, but now he and his new partner want the children to stay over with them at Christmas. The problem is that being Christmas they are bound to have more than a few alcoholic drinks and when they do drink they invariably argue and I am worried in case the children hear them and get upset. What can I do?
A: Children should not be exposed to any conflict between adults and child experts agree that overhearing verbal altercations between parents can potentially cause emotional harm. Local authorities have been known to issue care proceedings because of verbal arguments between parents and verbal, emotional and psychological abuse can be as harmful as physical abuse.
The government recently updated the definition of domestic violence. The cross-government definition of domestic violence and abuse is: any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to, psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse.
For your children to be exposed to your ex and his partner’s arguments may therefore be exposing them to domestic violence which would obviously not be in their best interests. However, it does not sound as though an argument is guaranteed and your best course of action would be to enter into mediation with your ex (and possibly his partner) to discuss your concerns. It may be that assurances can be given about drinking etc.
You should also take advice from a family lawyer and also possibly from social services, who may be able to investigate your concerns further.