Putting children and young people first in the family courts


Divorce and Separation


Use this page to find out information about disputes on arrangments for children following divorce and separation, and additional support. Find out more about our role in court proceedings.

Where safe, it is usually best for parents to resolve disputes about their children without going to court. 

It may not always be possible to resolve a dispute out of court. There are several things you will need to consider before applying to court.

If your case comes to court, the court will usually ask Cafcass to become involved.


Helping you and your family through separation


The Cafcass Parenting Plan


A Parenting Plan helps you and your ex work out arrangements for your child after you separate – even though you may be in dispute about other things. It helps you to put the best interests of your child first and to set out a shared commitment to your children

Your Plan will help you work out the practical decisions about children’s care in areas such as communication, living arrangements, money, religion, education, health care, and emotional well-being.  


Family Mediation


This is where an independent, professionally trained mediator helps you and your ex work out an agreement about issues such as:

  • Arrangements for children after you break up (sometimes called residence or contact)

  • Child maintenance payments

  • Finances (for example, what to do with your house, savings, pension, debts)

Many people find that mediation is quicker, less stressful and less expensive than going to court.  (And if you do want to go to court, the judge will usually ask you to consider mediation first).  A mediator helps you and your ex come to an agreement without being on anyone's 'side', and it’s also possible to ensure that the views of children are heard too.  Find out more about family mediation.


Separated Parents Information Programme (SPIP)


The Separated Parents Information Programme is a course which helps you understand how to put your children first while you are separating, even though you may be in dispute with your child’s other parent. The course helps parents learn the fundamental principles of how to manage conflict and difficulties. You will not attend the same session as your ex.


The family courts


Legal advice 

If you are thinking about using the family courts you may benefit from seeking legal advice from a solicitor. Depending on your circumstances you may qualify for legal aid.


Representing yourself


You don't need a lawyer to use the family courts, though where possible, it can be helpful to have some form of legal advice. People who choose to represent themselves in court are known as 'Litigants in Person' (LiPs).

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has produced guidance for parents who intend to represent themselves.




Useful websites


Coram Children’s Legal Centre: specialists in law and policy affecting children and young people.

Resolution: Advice on finding a solicitor.

Finding more help


Sorting out Separation - Advice and support on relationship breakdown.

Putting your children first - Our divorce and separation factsheet.

Further help and support

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