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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sorting out Separation - Advice and support on relationship breakdown.
Putting your children first - Our divorce and separation factsheet.