Making child arrangements if you divorce or separate

Making child arrangements

You can choose how to make arrangements for looking after your children if you separate from your partner.

What you can do is different in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

You and your ex-partner can usually avoid going to court hearings if you agree on:

  • where the children will live
  • how much time they’ll spend with each parent
  • how you’ll financially support your children

You can use a solicitor if you want to make your agreement legally binding.

You can agree on child maintenance at the same time or separately.

Get help agreeing

You can make a Parenting Plan with your ex-partner or use a mediator.

You can also get help and information from:

If you cannot agree on everything

You can ask a court to decide anything you cannot agree after mediation or getting other help.

You must show you’ve attended a meeting to see if mediation is right for you before applying to a court. You will not have to in certain cases, for example if there’s been domestic abuse or social services are involved.

You will not usually get legal aid to help with court costs unless you’re separating from an abusive partner.

You can contact Citizens Advice for advice about what to do in your situation.

  1. Step 1 Get support and advice

    You can get support or counselling to help you through the divorce process.

    1. Get support and advice from Relate
    2. Find a counsellor on Counselling Directory
  2. Step 2 Check if you can get divorced

  3. Step 3 Make arrangements for children, money and property

  4. Step 4 Apply for a divorce

  5. Step 5 Apply for 'decree nisi'

    You need to apply for a 'decree nisi' and give the court more information about why your marriage has broken down.

    1. Apply for a decree nisi
  6. Step 6 Finalise your divorce

    You need to apply for a 'decree absolute' to finalise your divorce. You'll have to wait 6 weeks and 1 day from the date of your decree nisi.

    1. Apply for a decree absolute

    Once the court approves your decree absolute, they'll send you both a copy of it and your divorce will be complete.

  7. Step 7 Report that your circumstances have changed

    You also have to tell other government organisations that you're getting divorced if: