06/01/2011 11:58 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Divorce: Should You Make The Kids Take Sides?

When a relationship breaks down, friends and family line up on either side, bride one side, groom the other. You try very hard not to do this. 'I really liked her! She was like a sister to me!' But you're fighting a losing battle. You have to take sides. It's like a football match - you choose which team you support.

When Tish Cyrus - mum of 17-year-old Hannah Montana star Miley - broke up with Miley's dad Billy Ray recently, it looked as though she was being comforted by the couple's son Braison, 16, and daughter Noah, 10, as she arrived at the lawyer's office in Los Angeles. Which makes you think. It's pretty bloody taking sides when you're a friend. After all, you know it takes two to tango. No one's completely innocent, however dark the picture's painted. You weren't there when the knife was turned, when the accumulation of sins was heaped up in a pile so precarious that it only took one tiny push to bring the whole fragile edifice tumbling down.

But what's it like when you're the child of a split? When your mum and your dad can no longer live together - and you, loved by both parties, have to work out where your loyalties lie?

There's never a right time for a couple to split if there are children involved. Disappear when she's a baby, and she'll miss you all her life. Split up when she's a toddler, and - unless you're both determined to put her first - she'll have to adapt painfully over several years to the separation of the two people she loves most. It looks as if two-and-a-half-year-old Max is going to be dividing his time between Christina Aguilera and her ex Jordan Bratman. Six-year-old Coco is currently coping with the separation between Courtenay Cox and David Arquette (although not, it is to be hoped, with her father's extraordinary confessions on Howard Stern).

But is it any better to split when the kids are older? If you stay together and split when you're 50-plus - the age group claiming most of the recent divorces in the UK - you end up with shell-shocked twenty-somethings wondering whether their whole lives were built on nothing but sand. 'The worst thing,' says a friend in her forties, 'was being asked by my mother to see my father in an entirely different light. She wanted support. She wanted to lean on me. I hated it - and, at the time, I hated her for making me feel that way.'

There are, of course, exceptions. Friends of mine split up when their children were ten and six. The parents bought separate houses near to each other, and co-operated magnificently on everything from family holidays to GCSE choices. The children missed their parents being together, but were never asked to choose between mum and dad.

Kids shouldn't have to choose. How can they? It's like splitting themselves in two.

Let's hope we don't see pictures of Billy Ray taking Miley Cyrus to see his lawyer.

By: Marianne Kavanagh