Lots of parents separate. This can be a sad and difficult time for everyone involved. It is hard for parents to know what is best for their children when they decide they do not want to be in a relationship anymore. You might be finding it tough to agree with your former partner about how your children should spend their time between you.
It can also be a very hard time for children. Research shows that when children are exposed to arguments and disagreements between their parents, this has a big impact on them. It is very important that you try your hardest not to involve your children in any problems between the parents.
You should aim to create a positive co-operative parenting relationship with your former partner. These are the most important things to remember:
- Always put your children first
- Be considerate of the other parent’s opinions
- Behave respectfully towards each other
- Make sure you communicate
- Protect your children from disagreements
Remember, although you are no longer in a romantic relationship with your partner, you will always have a relationship with them as parents of your children.
Perhaps you could think of it as a business-like relationship. There may be somebody at work who you do not get on with, but do you shout at that person in front of your other colleagues? Do you call them nasty names and refuse to work with them? Of course not – you treat them politely and with courtesy and make sure that you get your job done. You can do the same with your former partner, even if your break-up has been hard.
There are lots of important conversations which you will need to have with your former partner after you separate so that you can make sure you make a plan for what should happen with your children. These can be tricky topics to navigate.
The Cafcass website has lots of fantastic resources for separated parents.
Cafcass have also created a parenting plan which you might find very useful. It will help you think about the kinds of things you need to remember to discuss.
There will be some big decisions to make, like where the children will live and how you will manage Christmas. There will be some other perhaps less important decisions, like how you will pay for their school uniform and who will pick them up from football practice. What your children need is for you to work together to try to come to an agreement about all of these things.
You might also want to think about how you involve your children in those decisions.
There are lots of tools available to help you to make arrangements for your children and to have conversations about them in the best way. You might want to think about using an app or website like Our Family Wizard
Sometimes, separated parents might not be able to agree on all of these issues. It is really important that you try as hard as possible to solve any disputes. There is a lot of support available to parents who might need it.
You might find it very useful to attend a Planning Together for Children Programme. The PT4C is an online course which will help you to navigate your relationship as separated parents at more difficult times.
Parents should not come to the Family Court to solve any disputes, unless it is absolutely necessary. It can be very stressful coming to court, it can be upsetting for children, it can take a long time and sometimes it can cost a lot of money.
Think about how you could solve your dispute without coming to court. These might be the steps you could take:
Try to get help from your family, friends or other professional people who might be able to assist you, like school teachers or family support workers.
Get legal advice
You might decide to speak to a lawyer about your situation. Your lawyer can give you advice about other options to solve your dispute without going to court. There is more information in our Information Centre.
You should only go to court if it really is the only option. If there a serious worries about the safety of you or your children, court might be the most appropriate solution.
There is a lot of support available for separated parents. Follow the links below for more information.