1. 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
  • when they’ll spend time with each parent

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 could also:

If you can’t agree on everything

You can ask a court to decide anything you can’t 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 won’t have to in certain cases, for example if there’s been domestic abuse or social services are involved.

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

The Sorting Out Separation website has information about looking after children. You can also contact Citizens Advice for advice about what to do in your situation.