Family separation

Family separation

Sometimes, despite having tried to work things out, relationships and marriages end in divorce or separation with couples going their separate ways. If you have children, it is important that your break-up is managed as smoothly as possible to minimise the impact on their emotional and mental health and wellbeing and to help them feel loved and supported by both parents.

Whether you’ve recently separated or separated some time ago using the information and support within our healthy relationships section can help you to work through conflict and communication difficulties between yourselves and help you talk positively to your children about what is happening.

Here, you can find organisations to help you sort through the legal implications of parenting apart, making contact arrangements and getting legal advice.

Making child arrangements

There is information available on GOV.UK on making arrangements for your children if you divorce, separate or want to agree contact with your child/ren. It takes you step-by-step through the process:

  • agreeing a parenting plan together
  • what to do if you can’t agree on a plan
  • finding help through mediation
  • finding a solicitor and support with legal advice
  • applying for a court order
  • the role of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS)

Visit to follow each step


Mediation is required before applying to court. It can also be a very helpful, less expensive and less stressful way of resolving differences as an alternative to going to court. A mediator can help you and your ex-partner agree on child arrangements, without taking sides. A mediator does not make a decision but helps you both to have time to express how you feel, what you would like to happen, and help you to look at the pros and cons of each decision. You can ask a family member of friend you both trust to support you both, or you can use a formal mediation service - find a local mediator

There is financial support available for mediation through legal aid and a new time limited government voucher scheme

Finding a solicitor and legal advice

A legal adviser might be able to help you solve a problem or give you advice about what to do next.

You can find and pay for a legal adviser yourself or get help to pay if you’re eligible for legal aid.

You can also get free and lower cost advice from a legal adviser through organisations like charities and government departments.

The Law Society provide a register of solicitors and allows you to search for one in your area.

Legal aid can help you pay for the costs of a legal adviser, for example for:

  • legal advice out of court from a solicitor
  • representation in a court or tribunal by a barrister or solicitor

You’ll usually need to show that:

  • your case is eligible for legal aid
  • the problem is serious
  • you cannot pay for legal costs

The website has information on who is eligible for legal aid and how to apply


Cafcass stands for Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.

Cafcass only work with families when the courts direct them to, this is after the court has received an application from either you or the other parent/carer. They independently advise the family courts about what is safe for children and in their best interests. They put their needs, wishes and feelings first, making sure that children’s voices are heard at the heart of the family court setting. The CAFCASS website provides guidance and resources for parents and carers on all aspects of parenting apart, including how to create a parenting plan and providing a downloadable template. for both young people and parents who are going through family courts.

CAFCASS information for children and young people

CAFCASS have produced an online guide for both young and older children to enable them to understand what is happening and how they feel.

'Taking Me Seriously' video

CAFCASS have produced a video for children and young people involved in the family court. It features animated avatars and voices of the Family Justice Young People's Board sharing their recollections of how being involved in court proceedings made them feel. It shows how CAFCASS social workers help them understand what is happening in family proceedings, the help children will have to understand what will be recommended to the court, and we hear their positive experiences about having a voice that is heard in the process.

The Separating Better app from OnePlusOne

Separating Better is a FREE smartphone app which offers emotional and practical support to parents, guiding them through the separation process and equipping them with the skills they need to resolve conflict and co-parent effectively, in the best interests of their children.

Separating Better app graphic

The app contains:

  • Practical tools to help with budgeting and legal arrangements.
  • A parenting plan which parents can create to suit the needs of their children.
  • Videos to help parents to learn healthy conflict management and communication skills.
  • Evidence-based, expert articles about separation and co-parenting.

Try the app today

The app is completely FREE - so why not download it to your phone (using the buttons below) and give it a try today?

If you have a phone that runs Android, you'll want the Google Play version; or, if you have an iPhone, choose "Download on the App Store". 

   Google play link to the separating better app    Separating Better via Apple app store

What other support is available?



The NSPCC website has some useful information for parents who are divorcing or separating, which includes:

  • how to help children to deal with the separation
  • how to discuss separation with children and how the family will change
  • who has parental responsibility for a child
  • what the law says about contact after separation

Citizens Advice

The CAB can give you advice on what to when a relationship breaks down and can give information on child maintenance services.

Child Law Advice

This organisation provides specialist advice and information on child, family and education law to parents, carers and young people. There is a free helpline and email service as well as a ‘book a call’ service which operates for a small charge. It is best to look at the information on the website first, if possible, to get an understanding of your needs and know what you want to ask before you call the service as the free call lasts half an hour.

Find out more about Child Law Advice


Gingerbread provides support for single parents in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with factsheets offering practical advice on issues such as money, separation, housing and work.

Families Need Fathers

Families Need Fathers champions the child's relationship with both parents during and after family separation.

Last updated: