Parenting through Rise-filtered glasses
As a new parent, you might find yourself cut off from some of your usual social outlets, stuck at home for long stretches of time with only the baby for company. At this time, family and friends can be more important than ever, providing support and advice to boost your confidence and help get you through the tougher days. If your friends and family live far away, or if you don’t have face-to-face access, online social media can help you and your partner feel more connected to the outside world. Emotional support and positive feedback from other parents can also be invaluable as you figure things out [1] [2]. Social media can give you access to this, but it also helps you stay in touch with old friends who keep you connected to the parts of your life outside your parenting role [3]. Beating loneliness with online social interaction Your baby is always going to be your first priority, but these other social connections are important. As humans, we need to have meaningful relationships with each other – when we disconnect socially it can affect our health, making us more stressed and more likely to get sick, and affecting our sleep and concentration [3]. Social media can help you feel less isolated but it’s important to pay attention to the way you use it. Parents who actively engage with friends on social media tend to feel less stressed and more positive about their role as parents [2] but people who just spend more time on social media without engaging tend to feel more isolated, not less [3]. The difference here is between use and interaction. We’ve all spent time staring into our phones, refreshing our social media feeds in the hope that something new will come up. But this isn’t going to help you feel more connected when you’re knee-deep in baby wipes waiting for your partner to come home. You’ve got to reach out and engage with people if you want to experience the positive effects of social media. Turning off the filters It’s also important to keep some perspective on what you see through the lens of social media. We all know that Facebook life isn’t real life, and that nobody ever looks as good as they do on Instagram, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing things through Rise-filtered glasses and believing everybody on social media is having a better time than you.  If social media is your only window into your friends’ lives, you might start thinking they are living happier, more connected lives than you [3]. Try to remember that you’re only seeing an edited glimpse of what your friends want the rest of the world to see. When your social networks start making you feel worse instead of better, take a step back and have a think about who you could reach out to for a chat. It’s the social aspect of social networks that’s valuable, so the next time you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through posts, send a message instead – ask for advice, vent your feelings, or just tell someone a funny story about your day. The empathy, advice and humour that you come across online can give you a life-affirming confidence boost and make you feel better about how you’re getting on as a parent [4]. You might even want to start by making a post here on Click.   References [1] Madge C., O’Connor H. (2006). Parenting gone wired: Empowerment of new mothers on the Internet? Social and Cultural Geography, 7, 199–220.[2] Bartholomew, M. K., Schoppe‐Sullivan, S. J., Glassman, M., Kamp Dush, C. M., & Sullivan, J. M. (2012). New parents' Facebook use at the transition to parenthood. Family relations, 61(3), 455-469.[3] Primack, B.A. et al (2017) Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 53(1), 1-8.[4] Fletcher, R., & St. George, J. (2011). Heading into fatherhood—nervously: Support for fathering from online dads. Qualitative Health Research, 21(8), 1101-1114.
Article | social media, parenting
6 min read
Children’s loyalty issues after separation
Children face difficult loyalty conflicts when forced to choose between their parents. If being close to one parent means being disloyal to the other, children can feel stuck in the middle. Trying to choose between two parents they love can feel like an impossible situation. It’s often hard for parents to spot loyalty conflicts. Most parents just want to do what’s in the child’s best interests, but their perceptions of this can be clouded by feelings about the other parent. As a result, loyalty conflicts are often caused by unconscious behaviour and subtle messages from parents, and are usually unintended.  How to recognise loyalty conflicts If your child is frequently upset at handovers, seems unwilling to visit the other parent, or even refuses to go, they may be experiencing divided loyalties. Your child’s feelings are heavily influenced by your relationship with your ex-partner. This relationship is likely to be complicated, especially in the early days when you are still working things out. As co-parents, it’s important for you and your ex to have an ongoing relationship. You may need to address some of the following issues: Competition. Your children matter more to you than anything else in the world, and it can feel wonderful to know how much you mean to them. You may instinctively want to try and prove that you’re a better parent than your ex, but this can be confusing and worrying for your children. Remember that it’s best for the children when both of you are on top of your parenting game. Insecurity. If you are already the children’s main carer, separation can feel like a challenge to your role. You might feel like you have more of a right than the other parent to raise your children. It might even feel like your ex is suddenly putting effort into spending time with the children when they didn’t before – this can feel particularly threatening. Anger. It’s common to feel angry during and after a separation and there may be a part of you that wants to punish your ex. However reasonable this feels, it’s essential for your children’s happiness that you leave them out of your disputes. Don’t use your children as bargaining chips, and don’t expecting them to share your anger. Control. You will have to relinquish some control when your children spend time with their other parent. This might make you anxious, but it’s best for the children if you avoid criticising the other parent’s way of doing things. Children are generally good at adapting to different house rules and parenting styles but it can be difficult for them if their parents try to undermine each other. If you there are no immediately obvious reasons why your child is experiencing difficulties, it’s possible there’s a loyalty conflict. Give your children permission to be as close to the other parent as they are to you. Watch out for the hidden messages that children pick up on, and make sure you and your ex are doing as much as possible to make sure your children are comfortable and happy in both homes. Separated partners tend to reassess each other in the light of their relationship breakdown. If your ex has hurt you and disappointed you, you may feel that they’re untrustworthy, selfish, uncaring, irresponsible, and whatever else comes to mind. But it is important to remember that this assessment is about your ex as a partner, and not as a parent. Hard as it may be, try to focus on their good points as a parent. Remember that this is how your children see them, and try to separate your feelings from your children’s. Talking this through with a friend or a counsellor could help you to find new ways of adapting to being a single parent. If you and your ex are struggling to agree the arrangements for your children, a family mediator can support you in deciding what’s best for them.
Article | children, parenting apart
5 min read
“Prevented from seeing my son”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   I am a single dad who has an almost 6-month-old son. His mother and I are not in a relationship. My son was the unexpected result of a short casual affair. DNA proved that he is my son and I have been paying maintenance. I have also formed a relationship with him and love him very much. I have been seeing him several times a week without his mother and have also had him stay overnight once. His mother is a good mother to him but she has now decided to stop me seeing him and has said I have to apply legally to see him. There is no good reason for this. I am a good father, I do not drink, smoke or am abusive or violent. She has also said I will be able to see him only in a Supervised Contact Centre until he is 6 years old. Is this correct? I am sure she has stopped me seeing my son because she wanted to get back with me into a relationship which for various reasons I do not want. I do not have Parental Rights yet as the mother has refuse to sign the form giving me these rights. I now have to apply to the courts. I feel that for my son to have a Birth Certificate which says Father Unknown is unfair to him . I have booked a Mediation Appointment. Can anyone advise me on what visitation rights I may be able to have. My boy is missing out on a loving extended family situation.
Ask the community | contact
“My man has four kids and I do everything”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   For the past 12 months I have looked after my partner 100% as well as his kids. I do it all! He has paid for a few holidays for me, bought me some clothes and then tells me "well my ex gf paid for her own trips" I said yes, but she also hated your kids... He has told me plenty of times a nanny would be cheaper. He says I am still not enough in this relationship as he expects me to dedicate 100% of my time and I'm not allow to start my own business as it means I am working outside this family... He says that his income comes in and he is either working to pay for this family OR spending time with me and the kids... He thinks that the 5 schools days they are not home I am not allowed to spend on my business. He also says the fact I am broke is my own problem... I have now (i dont know why I didn't check this earlier) found out that nannies doing my work in this area WITHOUT cooking and cleaning for the man get $400+ board+food .... It works out that he has given me $200 per week and put me down for being broke and that he pays for me for everything. So I told him today I want the money per week as a nanny and he said I am being ridiculous, that I am his girlfriend and should ask for money. So I just sent him the following and I am waiting for his reply. Am I wrong? 1. “all of me, all of you” - Provide me €300 per week I will continue as I have been and provide €20,000 in a bank account in case we break up. My hours extra outside current home duties will be discussed and what my time spent on can be agreed on so you feel “connected”. If we become engaged and another contract is agree then that €20,000 goes back to joint account. If I start making an income in the outside work we agree on then the €300 stops. And we can discuss the amount of my income I put back into the family. If we have a child this amount becomes a new discussion. 2. Provide me with €400pw and I continue doing exactly as I have. I currently dedicate 4 days to this family and my extra days can be doing what I want without judgment from you. 3. We sort out my financial independence of €9000 based on the time I have already dedicated into this family, I will move out and my future financial situation is my own issue. Then we can the start dating and we can meet for dinners when you don't have the kids, and I will physically pay my half of holidays with my own money. I can come and hang out with the kids and sometimes spend the night, and as your girlfriend I can help you out with the kids for pickups and if you travel. I will be there for the kids in the same loving way except we don't need to be worried about who thinks they do more. At that stage any help we provide each other will be fair and done out of love. 4. I can leave now, we can clear this up with €9000 for my time into this family that I dedicated. If you choose this I will walk away and make no dramas and we just end things nicely.
Ask the community | stepfamily, arguments, finance
Separating from a pregnant partner
If you and the mother of your child have separated, you might be worried about what time you’ll get to spend with your child. If the relationship between you and your ex is volatile, you might not be able to hold a conversation long enough to discuss joint childcare arrangements. Why do I feel scared about this? There a few reasons you might feel this way: If you’ve recently separated, emotions will be running high and everything can be quite intense. It’s common to be overwhelmed, and this could be affecting your worldview. You may have heard stories of other dads not getting the chance to play a part in their children’s lives after a separation. 13% of non-resident fathers say they have no contact and never see their child [1], and this is a frightening statistic for expectant dads contemplating a separation. You might worry that you don’t have as many legal rights as your partner, or that they will move on with someone new who could take on a parenting role with your child. How can I help the situation? If your partner is angry and doesn’t want anything to do with you, first let the dust settle. Give her with space, and respect the decisions she makes for your child. The law will always favour your child’s needs, so the best thing you can do is demonstrate that you will be a positive influence in your child’s life. When the time is right, you could talk with her about doing a parenting plan. We offer a free online parenting plan where you can make decisions and make plans without having to speak directly to your ex. You will get a notification when they have made a suggestion, and you can agree, disagree, or find a compromise – all the while focusing on the best arrangements for the baby. Research suggests that even though regular face-to-face meetings are most ideal, frequent contact by phone or email can make up for distance from your child [2]. Although this kind of contact may not be ideal, it should enable you to maintain your parent-child bond. This is particularly good news if you live in a different location to your partner and your child. If your partner ends up blocking you from seeing your child, then you may need to go down the legal route. While the courts recognise the importance of the mother in the very early years, there is no gender bias. Researchers from the University of Warwick found that fathers applying for child contact had been “overwhelmingly successful” and that dads fared just as well as mums when making contact applications [3].   References [1] Eloise Poole. (2013). What do we know about non-resident fathers? Retrieved from Modern Fatherhood: www.modernfatherhood.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Briefing-paper-Non-resident-fathers.pdf [2] McGene, J. and King, V. (2012) Implications of New Marriages and Children for Coparenting in Nonresident Father Families. Journal of Family Issues, 33(12), 1619–41. [3] Warwick University (2015). Study finds English and Welsh family courts not discriminating against fathers. Retrieved from: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressreleases/study_finds_english/
Article | breakups, contact
4 min read
Pregnant and splitting up
If you’re pregnant and going through a separation, you might be worrying about how the breakup will affect your child. Stress One of the things you might be thinking about is how the stress of separation or divorce might affect your baby’s development in the womb. Research has found that relationship strain during pregnancy appears to be linked to negative cognitive and behavioural development in children [1]. If separation is the right thing for you as parents, it’s possible to minimise the stress and remain supportive to each other. This might be very difficult, especially if there are unresolved issues between you but, by being reasonable, rational and respectful, it is possible. Take your time to talk through a plan of action. If you decide to stay together, talk to your partner about how you can help reduce stress during the pregnancy. Maybe take up some light exercise together, or practice some yoga designed for pregnancy. If you do have arguments, take the calm and collected approach. If things get heated, take a break and return to the issue when you feel calmer. A two-parent family You may want your child to be brought up by two parents, especially if you were raised by both parents and want your child to have a similar upbringing. Some studies have found that children in two-parent homes are less likely to grow up in poverty [2], and are also less likely to develop emotional problems [3]. But, single-parent families are becoming more common and there is lots of support available for single parents. The number of lone-parent households in the UK grew steadily from 1.8 million in 2003 to nearly 1.9 million in 2013 [5]. While some research suggests that children in single-parent families have poorer outcomes, other research shows that, when it comes to their overall happiness, family composition doesn’t really matter [6]. It’s the quality of the relationship you have with your child that counts. If you stay with your partner, talk about how you want to raise your child. You both may have different ideas of what family life will be like. Take the time, hear each other out and make compromises where you can. Adjustment You may have been brought up in a single-parent household and found it hard to adjust to life. You may have witnessed conflict between your separated parents and, at times, may have felt caught between the two. A poll of 500 young people found that one in three felt that one of their parents had tried to turn them against the other during the breakup [4]. If your own upbringing in a single-parent household was difficult, it’s understandable that you wouldn’t want your child to go through a similar experience.  It’s important to nurture a good co-parenting relationship with your ex-partner. A good place to start is to seek mediation or create a parenting plan so you can agree on how you will raise your child.   References [1] Bergman K., Sarkar P., O'Connor T.G., Modi N., Glover V. (2007). Maternal stress during pregnancy predicts cognitive ability and fearfulness in infancy. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 2007 Nov; 46(11):1454-63. DOI: 10.1097/chi.0b013e31814a62f6 [2] Gingerbread (2018). Single parent statistics. Retrived on 16 April 2018 from: http://www.gingerbread.org.uk/content/365/Statistics [3] Parry-Langdon, N. (2008). Three years on: Survey of the development and emotional well-being of children and young people. Office for National Statistics [4] Office for National Statistics (2013). Families and Households: 2013. Retrieved from http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/family-demography/families-and-households/2013/stb-families.html [5] The Parent Connection. Children in single parent families no less happy than those in two parent households. Retrieved from: http://theparentconnection.org.uk/blog/children-in-single-parent-families-no-less-happy-than-those-in-two-parent-households [6] The Parent Connection. 1 in 3 young people say one parent tried to turn them against the other during divorce. Retrieved from: http://theparentconnection.org.uk/blog/1-in-3-young-people-say-one-parent-tried-to-turn-them-against-the-other-during-divorce
Article | breakups, pregnancy
4 min read
“Child arrangements”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Hi. My partner and I have been together for 7 years on and off as he has a drinking problem and bad group of friends and kept breaking up because of that. he was illegal at the time we met and I supported Him all the years till last year he got his rights to stay in the country on the basis of his 2 kids. He got his rights but still didn't want to work and was depending on me. I was paying all the bills etc. We kept arguing for a few months because of that and then all of a sudden I had to go abroad for a family emergency with my kids and he was at the time staying in my home and he did not go tact us whilst we were away, I tried so many time to get hold of him and only sometimes did so we got into an argument and I told him to leave as I was tired of taking all the responsibilities as I only worked part time and we have kids to support too. When I got back from abroad he had dissapeared from the home. he had taken all his belongings with. I tried to contact him but phone went to voicemail. I asked his friends and all said they didn't know where he was so I contacted the police after 48hrs and reported him missing and a week later I heard he went abroad to visit family. He contacted me a few times after that from there and then all of a sudden he stopped. He came back to the UK without informing me and I heard from.a friend of mine that he is back and wen I bumped into him he made like he did not know me so I left it as that as I didn't know eat to say or do. I later tried to call him, I sent him text msges but till today it's been 4 months now he not responded. my kids miss him so much. I am going through depression at the moment I cannot even go to work due to stress. As a single parent it is very difficult for me. I have 2 kids with him and a son from my previous husband. I don't know what to do as he does not provide anything not does he contact the kids. I am finding it so difficult to cope on my own as my youngest is not even 2yrs old. I cannot afford mediation or court fees. I really need him to help with the kids. I would like him to take or see the kids as it's affecting them. I have noticed a change in them since they got back and the dad was gone. I have spoken to child maintenance service and they will try help but I need help into child arrangements. I have tried to text him but has not got back to me regarding this. Could someone help me in this situation?
Ask the community | contact
“Visitation and day-to-day care”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Hi I'm in need of some support tips on how to deal with this situation. I am currently in processes of court order I've made to an ex-partner who is the father of my child. There was a lot of things he's done, I had to step up and finally tell someone what was going on in ma 5-yr relationship with the father of my child, which I wanted it to end a bit earlier in the years. I've been and sorted with lawyers, child for lawyers, appointments i attended. After a few of those I've done. Few months maybe more later. Its 2018 now I never heard bk from the lawyers at all or from the courts for a follow up about the cases. I had and heard no contact from no lawyers nothing. A letter came in and I opened it, and it says it was dated on the 2nd of march, I had to attend a conference court case on the 2nd of march 2018. I didn't receive the letter till the 29th of march that's when a letter arrived in my mail box. Why did it take that long to arrive in ma post. I contacted the family law centre to follow up why was the letter sent late. I received the letter in ma mail on the 29th of march, and on the letter it stated and dated on the 2nd march. Apparently I missed the court case. I turned up to the actual first one he didn't, then when I ended hearing about another one I didn't get notified about it for a few weeks he turned up to that, and I didn't. As now I don't know what he capable of he's sly, and I just need some tips how to cope with not been schemed and get stuff put on to me that isn't true. I raised and cared for ma son his whole life I've been there,while his father wasn't around, he's housed, fed, clothed, enrolled him into school he's doing great at school. I really want the father to get visitation at a centre where he's supervised. Not alone as that's why I took him to court - violence, etc... Just abuse.
User article | contact, physical abuse
Planning parenting time after separation
Every family is different. If you’ve separated from your partner, your plans for parenting time will depend on several factors: The ages of the children. Young children suit a ‘little but often’ routine, whereas older children can deal with longer blocks of time. Parents' work and other commitments. Shift workers may have more restrictions than parents who work from home. The accommodation of the parent who doesn't live with the children. How far apart the two homes are. Parents who live 10 minutes apart will have more opportunities for frequent visits than parents who live two hours apart. The children's wishes and any specific needs they have. The type of co-parenting relationship you have. This includes factors like how well you communicate and co-operate. In the early days, many families start without much of a plan. Visits are arranged at short notice, and activities are open and flexible. This can work well if the children are getting to see both parents regularly and there is a strong co-parenting relationship. A flexible arrangement requires good communication, and give and take on all sides. If children don't know when they're next seeing their mum or dad, they may worry, especially if there are sometimes long gaps between visits. Co-parenting requires frequent communication and co-operation, so it’s important to establish the parameters and remain consistent. Work out a plan together. Consider the practicalities and your own expectations but, most importantly, ask the children how they feel about it all. Things to bear in mind Children cope best with predictable and regular routines. If the children are of school age, it can be helpful to separate routines for term time and holiday time. You'll probably want to have special arrangements for days like birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. If you want to take the children away on holiday, you will need extra planning time.Be prepared to consult each other well in advance before you make any commitments. Have some flexibility to make changes now and again, but don't make changes without consulting your child’s other parent. Try to be considerate and accommodating when discussing changes. When it comes to parenting time, quality is more important than quantity. If you’ve only got limited time with your children, make it count – they will remember the good times. Children like doing ordinary, everyday things as well as having treats. Be prepared to review the arrangements. Don't worry about making your parenting plan perfect on the first attempt. Try it, review it, and then make adjustments as needed. If you want a template to get things started, you can use our free parenting plan at Splitting Up? Put Kids First.
Article | contact
Mediation for separating parents
There was a time when people's first response to a parenting dispute was to send a solicitor’s letter and threaten the other parent with court. However,  more people are moving away from court and turning to mediation to help them sort things out for their children. Why the change? Parents have got the message that going to court takes longer and is more expensive than using mediation. On top of that there's uncertainty about what the outcome will be in a court case - what if neither parent gets what they want? The time, cost, and uncertainty of going to court can all add worry to an already stressful situation. Family court judges have always known that parents are usually the best people to make decisions about their children. But, when parents don't get on and can't communicate, agreeing on a decision can be easier said than done. Nobody likes going to court but parents can often feel like they have no choice if the other parent refuses to negotiate with them. Mediation is often the answer, as it gives separating parents a dedicated space to negotiate their way to an agreement. To encourage people to consider this option, the government has introduced changes so that parents are now expected to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before they can apply to court. What happens in a MIAM?   As a result of these changes, the MIAM has become the first stop for parents who want help in sorting out disputes about their children. The MIAM is usually a one-to-one meeting between a parent and a mediator although occasionally both parents can be seen together. Once the mediator understands what the problem is, they will provide information about the different options open to parents and guidance about which approach might be best for them. Parents then decide what they would like to do. Mediation is voluntary and, for it to work, people have to be willing to give it a try. Parents always have the final say. Occasionally, the mediator will advise against using mediation. In either case, if mediation is not going ahead, the mediator will provide the signed confirmation that someone has attended a MIAM. This form is needed to make an application to court. Reasons why people think mediation won’t work   'We've tried to talk but we just end up arguing' 'It's their way or no way!' 'I'm not treated like an equal parent' 'They refuse to talk to me so what’s the point?' 'They won't reply to my messages' If any of that sounds familiar, then mediation can definitely help. It's the mediator’s job to make sure that everyone's views and feelings are taken into account, especially the children’s. Using an impartial, trained mediator helps to keep the focus on the children and on future possibilities rather than dwelling on past complaints. Most importantly, parents stay in control of the decisions in a private, supported, and respectful environment. From a child's perspective, the thought of one parent taking the other to court can feel scary. They are likely to feel much happier with the thought that their mum and dad are sitting down to talk about them and working things out together. How to find a mediator You can find your nearest mediator through National Family Mediation. There are charges for MIAMs and mediation but if you are on a low income or benefits such as Income Support you might qualify for free mediation through Legal Aid. This article is written by Bernie Davis, specialist family mediator.
Article | mediation
3 min read
School holidays for separated parents
However well you are managing the week-to-week parenting arrangements with your ex-partner, the school holidays may present new challenges. If you have the children most of the time, you might be looking forward to having a break from the routine, and getting some fun time together with the children (and possibly  some ‘me time’ without them!). If you are the non-resident parent, you may have mixed feelings. You may be excited about  treating your children, and spending a bit longer together, but also anxious about potential conflict with your ex-partner. If you can work out the arrangements well in advance, you should have an easier time of it. As parents, you can both make plans, and the children will know what to expect and look forward to. However, it isn’t always easy. Planning the holidays can often lead to arguments about time, costs, and who needs a holiday most. It can also bring out the competitive nature of ex-partners. While you might feel that you have good reason to fight for your case, conflict can often leave children trapped in the middle. So, how do you keep things respectful and ensure that your children get to spend quality time with both of you? Here are a few suggestions for happier holidays: Talk with your children before making any firm plans. Don’t use your children as messengers between you and your ex. Try to see things from your ex-partner’s point of view – you will both have different feelings about how best to manage holidays. Tell the children about changes to activities, but do not overwhelm them with details. Be respectful of your ex-partner when discussing plans with your children.  Disagreements are bound to arise when dealing with your ex-partner. If you find yourself locked in battle, try to step back and remember the big picture. Try and manage everyone’s expectations as best you can, be prepared to compromise, and remember… there will be other holidays. Your children will benefit from being able to have a good time with both of you. If you can keep that goal in mind, you may be able to avoid a lot of potential disagreements. These tips can help you keep it civil: Make it a priority to develop workable plan with your ex-partner. Don’t argue with your ex-partner in front of your children – even on the phone. Avoid talking to your children about your ex-partner’s behaviour. Be polite and efficient when you’re sorting out the details. Focus on the strengths and interests of all family members, including your ex-partner. Remember that holidays can form a significant part of childhood memories. Finding ways for your children to cope better, and trying to be mindful of your ex-partner, can go a long way to smoothing the path and giving your family happy memories to cherish forever.
Article | contact, school
Dealing with anger during a separation
Anger is a natural and common response to loss. Anybody going through a relationship breakdown is likely to get angry at some point. However, anger can sometimes be scary – not just for the person on the receiving end, but also for the person experiencing it. The intensity of feeling can make you feel like you’re out of control.  You may swing unpredictably from feelings of rage and revenge, to insecurity and sadness, and back again. Simply feeling angry is not necessarily a matter for concern, but how you deal with that anger is important. Feeling angry can be healthy when it gives you the energy to get on and take control; when it protects your self-esteem and helps you to stand up for yourself. It might also help you to separate emotionally from your ex. However, it’s important to remember the following Don’t bottle up your anger and turn it inwards. This can make you less available to your children, depriving them of the valuable relationship they have with you. In extreme cases, it can even lead to depression.   Don’t express your anger as aggression. Aggression, including the silent or passive kinds) can damage you and the people around you. Witnessing conflict is frightening for children and can have damaging effects. Anger directed at the children’s other parent will interfere with the development of a co-parenting relationship and will affect the quality of your children’s relationships with both parents. To make sure that your anger works through in a healthy way, talk about your feelings to trusted friends and family, or a professional counsellor. Take care of yourself – eat well and get some exercise. If you feel your anger is becoming a problem, you may need to change the way you think You may think you have a right to be angry and that whoever it’s directed at deserves it. Ask yourself what good the anger is doing. Weigh this up against the damage it could be doing to you and your children. You may think it’s OK to be angry because it doesn’t affect anyone else. However, it doesn’t do you any good to remain stuck in the past, unable to move on and, no matter how hard you try to keep things in, the people around you may still be affected by your anger. You may see anger as a way to get what you want. Try to let go of this and aim for positive communication. You will stand a much better chance of coming to an agreement with your ex when you can discuss things calmly. To get through an angry phase, you may need to acknowledge past pain. If you feel that your response to the current situation is disproportionate, it’s possible that you’re still reacting past injustices. Although you can’t do anything to change your experiences, you can work on changing your attitude towards them. It can be difficult to do this alone and counselling could help you to explore your feelings in a safe way. If you are being affected by your partner’s anger If your ex’s anger seems extreme or if they seem to be stuck in anger and unable to move on, you may need to protect yourself by limiting your contact with your ex. Your priority is to make yourself and your children safe. You may need to involve a solicitor to help and advise you. The Domestic Violence Helpline offers confidential support and information 24 hours a day.
Article | separation, anger
Family mediation
What is mediation? Mediation is a place for separated and separating parents to talk about their children, property and finances. It is a form of dispute resolution that offers parents a safe place to have an open and honest discussion. Mediation is confidential – everything you say is private and will not be used in any court proceedings. Trained family mediators are non-judgemental and impartial. They do not tell you what to do, and you remain in control of the decision making. A mediator’s role is to support you in finding solutions that work for everyone.   Does family mediation work? Mediation works best when parents want to find a way forward and sort things out. People who use mediation sessions to resolve their disagreements usually come to an agreement sooner and at less cost than those who use solicitors and go to court. Family mediation can also reduce ongoing conflict. You are required to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) before you can start court proceedings. This session can help you decide whether mediation is right for you. Using mediation does not stop you from going to court later if you still feel you need to. How much does mediation cost and how many meetings will I need? Prices vary but if you are on a low income you may qualify for legal aid. The number of meetings you will need depends on the complexity of issues that need to be resolved. Issues about contact can take one or two meetings but if you need to discuss property and financial issues as well, you may need three to five meetings. Will the mediator give me legal advice? Mediators can give you legal information but they will not give you legal advice. You can always take legal advice from another source before finalising an agreement you've reached in mediation. I don’t trust my ex to stick to an agreement if it’s not legal. Wouldn’t it be better to go straight to court? Agreements made in mediation are not legally binding. However, experience shows that agreements made voluntarily are more likely than court orders to reflect children’s and parents’ needs, and are therefore more likely to last. It also helps to improve understanding, restore communication and build trust. If necessary, agreements made in mediation can be used as the basis of a court order. In the case of property and financial issues on divorce, a memorandum of understanding produced in mediation can be used as the basis of a consent order. What if I feel pressured to agree to something I’ll regret later? Although the mediator will provide encouragement, you will not be pressured into agreeing anything and it is up to you to make the final decision. If you are discussing property and financial issues, you are advised to obtain legal advice on your proposals before finalising them. Who else will be in the meeting? Usually, only the mediator and the parents are present at meetings. Occasionally it is helpful to have a supporter or a legal advisor present at a meeting but both parents would need to agree to this. Can the children be included? Some mediation services offer children the opportunity to be included in the process. Research has found that children feel better if they have an opportunity to have their say about decisions that affect them. There’s no point – we’ll never agree It is not unusual to feel that agreement is impossible, especially if your previous attempts have failed. However, mediation is a different approach and the presence of a trained mediator can make a big difference to the kind of conversation you can have. Mediation may work where other methods have failed. What if my partner is better at negotiating than I am? How will I get my point across? Mediators are trained to make sure both parents’ views are heard and understood. They do not take sides so they will not be influenced if one person is a better negotiator than the other. I don’t think my ex will come Mediation is voluntary, so people can’t be forced to come. However, the mediator will write to your ex explaining the purpose of the meeting and offering to meet them alone to discuss their options. This can be a helpful for parents who feel reluctant about using the service. For further information and advice about family mediation, visit National Family Mediation (NFM) or the mediation helpline.
Article | mediation
Two parents, two homes
After a separation, most children want reassurance that, although life is changing, they will still have access to both of their parents. It can also be important to keep in touch with other family members who may also be a source of support and can help a child adjust to new family arrangements. The quality of parenting during contact matters more than the amount of contact. Effective parenting – showing an interest, offering encouragement, giving love and warmth – is what counts. There are situations, however, where contact may be damaging, such as where there is no previous relationship; or where there are known risks of abuse or neglect, domestic violence, or extreme conflict between the parents. What children think about contact Both parents need to agree contact arrangements, taking account of changing circumstances as children grow older. Younger children benefit from frequent and regular contact, but older children prefer parents to be flexible, as they have their own social activities and friends to make time for. Research into how children feel about contact shows that: Most children want contact. Most children still value the parent who has left home, seeing them as an important part of their family. Losing touch is painful and, even where there is contact, some children want more. Children in the same family sometimes feel differently about the same arrangements. Children tend to be happier when they are involved in decisions and can talk to a parent about problems. Children need to feel that their views about contact are considered. Children usually enjoy contact, but can find it distressing if parents don't turn up as arranged. Other problems for children include: Feeling torn between parents. Seeing parents argue. Harassment or abuse. Being used as a go-between. Relationships with a parent's new partner. Missing the resident parent. Having to move betweentwo homes. Some children will fight against contact. They may feel too upset, angry and confused for a while – this is likely to be temporary. What contact arrangements should be made? There's no single way of arranging contact to suit all children and parents. Some parents share care, where a child spends a percentage of their time with one parent and the rest with the other. Sometimes, contact is every other weekend, holidays only, or day visits. Arrangements will depend on the children’s personal circumstances; the distance between their homes; suitable accommodation; any financial constraints; and the parents’ working patterns. What the children want, and their age and maturity, will also be considered. Adults’ and children’s needs change as circumstances change. You may have to review contact arrangements to fit in with events like moving house, changing schools, a new job, new partners, and new babies. If you need help arranging contact If you find you need help deciding on child contact issues and other aspects of your separation, family mediation could help you to exchange information, ideas and feelings constructively. You would remain responsible for all decisions.
Article | separation, contact
“Court order issues”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Hi, I've never done this before and it it's my first time ever posting but i needed some advice. Me and my sons dad split when he was 3 months old and hes now 11 years old. We went to court over my son when he was 11months old and court orders were put in place. These were changed in 2010 and they are now for me to have my son unsupervised overnight one week and thursday til sunday the other week. Recently me and my new partner who i have been with for 2 and a half years had an arguement where he hit me, it wasnt expected and hes never done anything like this before but due to underlying issues at the time it did happen. It was reported to the police and we have since resolved this issue ourselves. Since the incident happened someone made a call to social services stating i threatened to self harm and overdose while i have my son. I do have mental health problems but my psychiatrist has been asking about finishing my outpatient care as he feels that now i have been off my medication and stable for 3years i no longer need the help i once did. Obviously the call to social services was a lie, they rang my sons dad to tell him of the complaint. He told me about the call and what was said. He has said about my partner being around our son. Now my partner would never harm my son or do anything that would cause him harm as he loves him like his own children. My sons dad has told me that should my partner come back he will stop my son coming down to my home. I know he will be in breach of the court orders as they state he is to be made available to me on the days stated. What can i do regarding this as i do not want to lose contact with my son over someones lies to social services.
Ask the community | communication, arguments, physical abuse
Moving with children after separation
It is common for parents to relocate after a divorce or separation. There are many reasons you might want to move: a new job or a new partner; getting away after a difficult breakup; moving nearer to family and friends; or just seeking a new start. Whatever the reason, it’s important to think carefully about the impact on your children. And, if the other parent objects, you may need to get a child arrangement order from the court. Child arrangement orders have replaced residence orders’ and ‘contact orders’. If you already have one of these, you don’t need to reapply. Requests for these orders can be refused where there are ‘exceptional circumstances’. In a case known as Re F (2010), the court denied a mother’s request to move from north-east England to Orkney. The court ruled that the move would affect the children’s welfare as one had dyspraxia and mild autism another had expressed strong feelings against the move. Requests for orders to move abroad with children are usually treated with greater scrutiny but those considered ‘reasonable’ are not usually refused. When considering a request for an overseas residence order, courts will examine the reasons for the request. The court will consider the child’s quality of life including arrangements for schools and housing, the relationship between the child and the other parent back at home and the practicalities for maintaining contact. To ensure the order is enforced in the destination country, the court may require the relocating parent to obtain an order in that country to comply with local jurisdiction, or to pay a financial security, or bond. The relocating parent could face prosecution if they breach the terms of an overseas order, so it’s important to check the details carefully. It can be extremely upsetting for a separated or divorced parent to be told that their ex wants to relocate with the children. However, the courts will consider each case on its own merits and the children’s welfare will determine whether the order is granted. To avoid the costs and aggravation of a court case, parents should work to settle their differences and come to an agreement. It may be helpful to work with a mediator or to seek legal advice to ensure any proposed agreement is enforceable, especially where an overseas jurisdiction is involved. For more information on making child arrangements, visit gov.uk. For help with making a parenting plan, visit our free service, Splitting Up? Put Kids First.
Article | big changes, moving
4 min read
Arguing with your ex
When parents separate, the biggest damage to children is done by exposure to rows and disagreements. Developing a way of working out disagreements can protect your children and keep your stress levels to a minimum. Disagreements are a part of life Parents often have different views about what's best for their children, even when they are together. When you’ve separated, these disagreements can easily get blown out of proportion. Ask yourself how important the disagreement is. Often, the best way to deal with a difference is to look for a compromise or even just to let it go. Unresolved disagreements   When dealing with the more important issues, arrange a time and place where you can talk properly and where the children won't overhear. Emphasise your desire to work it out and do what’s best for the children and work to understand each other. Don’t try to win the argument, and don’t make assumptions about the other parent's needs and motives. Ask questions and check the facts. Language and behaviour   Be respectful. Avoid insults and blame, and don’t get drawn into the past. Focus on the future and what you can do to improve things. Keep reminding yourself that this is about the children, and that the best thing you can do is work together to sort things out. If you’re struggling to communicate with your ex-partner, you may find mediation helpful. Mediators are skilled at helping parents resolve disagreements. They may help you see things differently, so that you can reach an agreement.
Article | communication, arguments
2 min read
“Ex-husband not sticking to court order”
This post was published by a Click user. Please feel free to respond in the comments below. We sometimes edit posts to ensure Click is a safe, respectful place to share stories and questions. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   Basically we have a court order in place which my ex requested out of the blue as he disappeared from our lives for nearly 2 years to live in Spain with zero contact then he took me to court saying I had made it difficult for him to see the girls. Anyway 2 years down the road and he is constantly changing the court order. Has never stuck to any of it and always letting the girls down with various reasons. The latest being that he cannot afford to feed the children despite being on 50k a year! (This is because the CMS are now deducting the maintenance from his wages and being the control freak that he is he is less than happy about this. This is his latest excuse. I got 1/2 hour free this morning with a solicitor and she advised me to not yet go back to court and I pointed out that he would not go for mediation so she suggested to write a non confrontational letter saying that I understand he is having difficulties sticking to the order and therefore as of next week contact will be as follows and propose 5 hours one Saturday afternoon. She also said to politely mention the court order and say that it will need reviewing if the above suggestion doesn't work for him. How can I politely word this in a non confrontational way as otherwise he will kick off verbally which panics me. Thanks in advance.
Ask the community | breach, legal rights
Sorting out benefits after separation
Once you’re no longer living together, you’re classed as separated for tax and benefit purposes. Separating from your partner may mean that you become entitled to new benefits and tax credits or higher amounts of benefits than you already receive. If you or your ex-partner were claiming benefits for the family before you separated, it’s important to tell Jobcentre Plus and HM Revenue & Customs straight away. Keeping them up to date about your change in circumstances can help you avoid being overpaid or losing out on money. Qualifying for extra benefits could make a big difference to the options be available to you, particularly when it comes to the cost of housing. If the parent with the main care of the children can work at least 16 hours a week, they may qualify for Working Tax Credit. This benefit can make a substantial difference to a single parent’s income, so it may be worthwhile – financially anyway – if you can manage this. If you have permanently separated from your partner, you can claim benefits and tax credits as a single person immediately. If your separation is temporary or on a trial basis, you may not be able to claim these benefits while there is still a chance you may get back together. For advice and practical support with benefits and tax credits, contact your local free advice centre, such as Citizens Advice, or called the Gingerbread Single Parent Helpline free on 0808 802 0925. You can find further detailed information on page four of the factsheet 'Action to take when a relationship ends',  produced by the charity Gingerbread who provide expert advice and practical support for single parents.
Article | legal rights, co-parenting
2 min read
Fathers’ legal rights and responsibilities
Parental responsibility (PR) is the legal name for a parent’s duties to their child. Having parental responsibility means you have the right to contribute to decisions made around your child's future and how they are raised, including giving consent to medical treatment, choosing their school, and their religion. Having parental responsibility does not mean that separated parents can over-ride each other’s wishes or interfere with day-to-day decisions relating to the children when they are with the other parent. Having parental responsibility doesn’t mean that you will always get what you want from a court if you disagree with the other parent. You may also be liable to pay child maintenance even if you don’t have parental responsibility. Who has parental responsibility? Parental responsibility is automatically granted to mothers and to fathers who are married to the mother. You will also have parental responsibility if you have adopted the child or if the child was born after 1 December 2003 and you are registered on the birth certificate (in England and Wales). You do not lose  as a result of divorce or separation. How to get parental responsibility If the mother agrees, you can both sign a Parental Responsibility Agreement form. You can access the application from the Parental rights and responsibilities section of gov.uk or ask at your local county court. If the mother doesn’t agree, you can apply for a Parental Responsibility Order from the court. In considering an application from a father, the court will take the following into account: the degree of commitment shown by the father to his child the degree of attachment between father and child the father's reasons for applying for the order The court will then decide to accept or reject the application based on what it thinks is in the child’s best interests.
Article | fathers, legal rights, separation
2 min read
Free online parenting plan
Splitting Up? Put Kids First was made by OnePlusOne, who are also behind Click. It was designed to support separating parents in helping them put their children’s needs first at a time of great emotional upheaval. The way separated couples manage co-parenting can have an enormous impact on a child throughout their life – from education in the short term, to future relationships and mental health in the long term. The aim is to reduce the number of children negatively affected by painful parent separations while encouraging a culture shift in the way people deal with co-parenting, to make the continued involvement of both parents the norm, and ensure that those working with separating families can provide the guidance and tools needed.  Created by our parent company, relationship charity OnePlusOne, this is the first online Parenting Plan that helps couples communicate and make arrangements about who will be seeing their children in an informal yet structured environment. The service is FREE and available 24/7 and 365 days a year. Help is available now, with no need to book an appointment or go on a waiting list. OnePlusOne Director Penny Mansfield CBE, says: If couples have a very nasty breakup they may find it impossible to work out arrangements for their children.If we can encourage them to think about new childcare needs before it becomes too difficult, that will be much better for everyone.Our hope is it will remove much of the bitterness involved in a break-up because you don’t have to make an appointment or go to a place where you have to define yourself in a certain way”. Splitting Up? Put Kids First is available in Welsh and English. Give it a try and let us know what you think. Contact dean.wilson@oneplusone.org.uk if you’re willing to share your feedback with us.
Article | co-parenting, children, planning
1 min read
The role of grandparents (during separation)
Being a grandparent is a precious role, with all the joys of spending time with and caring for a child, and less of the stress. Most grandparents idolise their grandchildren, and grandchildren can thrive on that special relationship. After a parental divorce or separation, the grandparents’ role can shift dramatically and what was once taken for granted becomes fraught with complications. Grandparents – especially those who have been very closely involved – invariably get caught in the middle. You may worry about seeing less of your grandchildren or losing contact altogether. Your loyalties can be torn between wanting to support your child through the painful periods and wanting to stay on good terms with their ex-partner. After a separation, grandparents are faced with many dilemmas: Grandparents are often called on for advice and support. They need to be good listeners while staying neutral. Grandparents are expected to be there to pick up the pieces but withdraw whenever they are regarded as being too interfering. Grandparents should respect boundaries but also be available for support when needed. Grandparents often have to to provide comfort, reassurance and answers for angry and confused children, not always knowing exactly what is going on themselves. During a separation, parents are often overwhelmed with their own issues and with making sure their children are OK. In this state, it’s easy overlook the valuable role that grandparents play. It is worth taking the time to sit down and talk with grandparents about what they are might be thinking and feeling, making sure they don’t feel taken for granted. It is OK to say you need them. The support of grandparents can be a crucial factor in how children cope with their parents' separation. Try to be clear about what you would like from them, and encourage them to do the same for you. Be open and honest. Keep in mind that when a couple’s relationship breaks down it doesn't just affect the immediate family members – it touches other family members in a number of ways too. You may also like to visit How mediation can assist grandparents on the National Family Mediation website.
Article | grandparents, co-parenting, identity
2 min read
Tips for communicating with your ex
As a separated parent, one of your biggest challenges will be to put aside your feelings about your ex to focus on your child. This is not an easy thing to do. It can take a long time to adjust to the end of a romantic relationship. When you have children together, you’ll need to renegotiate the terms of your relationship entirely. You're no longer partners, but you will still need to work together to raise the children. Although your conversations may be focused more on practicalities, it’s still important to share the positives of being parents. Look for opportunities to talk about your children's successes and try to appreciate what their other parent does for them – staying positive can help you keep the dialogue open. If your ex is making communication difficult it is easy for bad feelings and behaviour to escalate. While you may not be able to control your ex’s behaviour, you do have power over your own, and can at least try to be a positive influence.  Your ex may just be going through a tough patch. Keep sticking to your goal of focusing on the children's needs and stay patient, and you'll stand a better chance of getting through it without doing too much damage to your co-parenting relationship. Try to agree to keep the co-parenting conversations separate from all other discussions, for example, about the house or money. These are important issues so you will need to make sure they are being dealt with somewhere else. If face-to-face conversation is too hard for the moment, you might find using text or email easier. Just bear in mind that tone of voice and body language can affect how people respond to communication. The absence of these cues means that messages can be misinterpreted, so pay attention to how you phrase things, and give your ex the benefit of the doubt. If you need to raise something difficult,  let the other parent know you would like to talk and then agree a convenient time and place. Set an agenda so there are no surprises and you can both be prepared. Agreeing to meet in a public place can ensure you both behave civilly, and it also takes you out of the children’s environment. To keep your communication at its most effective, consider having regular meetings to review: The children's successes and achievements. Parenting time arrangements. Special events. Health, education and general welfare. Discipline and boundaries. Activities.   Why it's worth the effort If you don't find a way of communicating with your ex that works for you both, it's going to be hard on everyone – the children will miss out and you could end up dreading every conversation with your child’s other parent.  Children's needs change as they grow older; your life will change too - it’s important that you can sit down together and talk about how these changes will affect you. Keeping the dialogue open and developing some good will makes the difficult conversations that much easier.
Article | co-parenting, communication
3 min read
How to prepare for family mediation
Mediation is a process in which parents work together with a professional mediator to develop a mutually acceptable parenting plan. The parenting plan can be quite structured, specifying the day-to-day arrangements for the children, as well as plans for the school holidays, birthdays and other special occasions. You and your child’s other parent decide what to include. Parental conflict over arrangements can have a damaging effect on children. By working together in a safe and managed way with a mediator, parents can avoid these battles and come to agreement that suits the children’s needs. How to prepare for the mediation process Approach mediation with an open mind and be willing to listen. Parents who are open and listen to their ex-partner are more able to reach a settlement. Do your homework before mediation and come prepared with several options. Write down a few ideas and proposals so you can refer to them in the mediation session. What children need is often different from what parents need. Make sure you understand your children's needs, so you can stay focused on them and not on each other. Family mediation is not the place to focus on the other parent. The process is likely to break down if you and your ex-partner get into an argument about who said what. This is not a place to rehash old conflicts but rather to solve parenting problems after divorce or separation.  Be open to different ideas, and willing to compromise so you can reach a peaceful solution on behalf of your children.  Things that might help you while you are mediating Focusing on your children's needs rather than your own. Acknowledging that children have different needs depending their age, temperament, and development. Acknowledging the other parent's strengths. Accepting that children need time with both parents. What to take with you to the mediation meeting A proposal for residence and a time-sharing plan. A calendar of school holidays, work schedules, and a schedule for your child's activities. A flexible attitude. A positive attitude that you will be able to sort things out between yourselves. If you want some help creating a parenting plan, try our free template at Splitting Up? Put Kids First. You can do it all online, including reviewing each other's suggestions so you don't even need to meet up with your ex-partner when you want to make changes. If you'd like further insight into how mediation might work for you, this video from Creating Paths to Family Justice offers helpful information on how different types of mediation can work: Considering mediation video
Article | co-parenting, mediation, planning
3 min read
As children grow, their needs change
As children grow up and develop through different stages, they gradually become more involved in the world outside their immediate families. If you and your child's other parent are separated, you may need to review your parenting arrangements as your child's needs change. Starting nursery and school are both significant steps, usually marking the start of children developing their own social lives. By the time children reach their mid to late teens, it might seem like their friends have become more important than their family. For separated parents, life transitions like these can also trigger a need to review the childcare arrangements. If possible, it's better for children if both parents are involved in the planning and decision making around these stages and changes. Older children may want to take on part-time jobs or have weekend sleepovers at their friends’ homes. When children start school, parents need to consider that parenting time will be built around the beginning and end of the school day and term times. All parents will will also have to take responsibility for making sure homework gets done and school uniform is washed and ready for Monday morning. If your children spend part of the school week at both homes, you will find that good communication and planning are essential to keeping life easy. If you have a good co-parenting relationship, adapting the arrangements to suit your children's changing needs doesn’t have to be a big issue. If, however, you find agreeing changes with the other parent difficult and avoid discussing the need to review things, you may find things suddenly aren't working anymore. Most parenting plans have a shelf life of about two years before they need to be reviewed. Sticking rigidly to an outdated plan can be very constricting to children. Be prepared to accept that reviewing the arrangements is a normal part of sharing the joys and challenges of watching your children grow up. New parents and siblings It's common for children to become part of a new stepfamily after their parent's relationship ends. The prospect of a baby brother or sister can be exciting to children of all ages, but can also feel like a threat. If you're the other parent, you may have mixed feelings about your ex's new family but your priority should be to  support your children. If you find it difficult to support your ex, try to see it as an opportunity to show goodwill by accommodating changes to arrangements around the birth of the baby and being flexible around parenting time. For help setting up and reviewing a parenting plan, you can find our free template and other resources at Splitting Up? Put Kids First. For more information and support on co-parenting, see our section on parenting apart.
Article | children, co-parenting, family
3 min read
Separating from a partner – married or not
When a married or civil partnered couple ends their relationship, they need to go through a formal process of divorce or dissolution. Couples who are not married or civil partnered can separate without having to go through any formal process. However, splitting up can be more difficult for couples who are not married and not civil partnered, because there is no recognised structure for sorting things out. This can be particularly difficult if you have children. Whether you are married, civil partnered, or not, the court has the power to intervene in relation to the care of children. If you have an issue over your children and have applied to court to sort it out, some family courts will offer a mediation or conciliation service. Counselling and mediation services are available for all couples, parents and families. Deciding on the most appropriate service will depend on what the unresolved issues are. Mediation can deal with finances, separation and children; whereas conciliation deals specifically with issues relating to children. See the following links for more information: Advicenow - breaking up survival guide Cafcass  - information for children and their families involved in family court proceedings Counselling directory – find a local counselling service Resolution – find family lawyers, mediators and other relationship professionals Find your local council on gov.uk – your local council should be able to tell you about family services available in your area.   Dividing assets It is always best to try and reach an agreement with your ex-partner about how to sort out your finances and assets. Getting lawyers involved can be very expensive – perhaps even more expensive than the value of the items in question. If you can’t sort things out on your own, it is worth considering a mediation service. If you are not married and not civil partnered, the following general rules apply: If you alone paid for something, it belongs to you. If you bought something together, you own it jointly. If you bought something and your contributions were unequal, then your share in it will be equal to the contribution you made. However, what you do or say to each other at different times can change the above rules. For example, if you buy something but say to your partner, ‘this is yours’ or ‘this belongs to both of us’ a court can later regard you as having created ‘a trust’ and can hold you to that promise. It is always better to have a written record of ownership. Or you may be regarded as having created a ‘trust by implication’ – this means that what you had said or done led to the conclusion that something you bought on your own is now shared or was given to your partner.   Child maintenance As a parent, your financial responsibility for your child continues after your relationship with the other parent has ended. Child maintenance is regular financial support towards a child’s everyday living costs. It is paid to the parent with the main day-to-day care of the child by the other parent. Receiving child maintenance will not affect any other benefits you are entitled to, including those that are means tested. You have two options for arranging maintenance: a private arrangement; or a statutory (legal) arrangement. The Child Maintenance Service can help with setting up both kinds of arrangements. You can arrange child maintenance privately between yourselves without any official or legal intervention, in whatever way best suits your circumstances. The Child Maintenance Service offers free help and tools to set up this kind of ‘family-based child maintenance arrangement’.   Further information Child Maintenance Options offers impartial information and advice to help parents make informed choices about child maintenance. Call the free helpline on 0800 988 0988 or use the Live Chat service from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday or 9am to 4pm Saturday. The Child Maintenance Service is the statutory body responsible for the child maintenance system.
Article | divorce, separation
4 min read
Mini course: ‘Getting it Right for Children’
Most mums and dads want what’s best for their children, and this doesn’t end when you separate. Very few parents set out to put their children in the middle when they separate but, as the emotional and practical realities of parenting after parting set in, it’s often the children who get caught in the middle. Research shows when couples part, there are inevitable disagreements and difficulties. Children often become caught in the middle of parents’ arguments and this additions stress can be damaging, whatever their age. As a separated parent, it’s easy to get so caught up with your own feelings that you don’t see the impact of separation on your children. It’s not intentional, but it does happen. Getting It Right for Children when Parents Part is an online programme  designed by OnePlusOne to tackle the potential problems children face when their parents separate. The course uses Behaviour Modelling Training techniques that have been proven to be very effective in helping to break behaviour patterns and do things differently. The easy-to-use course lets you watch common scenarios which help you understand the ways parents inadvertently involve their children in their difficulties, how this affects them. Watch the characters reflect on what happened in each case and how they felt about it. Identify the skills you have seen and think about how you could use them in your own situation with your ex-partner. Set your own personal goals – specific things you want to change that will help you communicate better with your ex-partner and avoid putting your children in the middle.  There’s also a programme forum where users can share experiences and tips with each other. Signing up is easy, and you can work through the course at your own pace – complete one family at a time or all four in one session. You can access the programme here and give it a try. Whether you think you need it or not, it could help you, your ex-partner and your children make changes for the better.
Article | co-parenting, children, communication
2 min read
Get legal advice if you can't afford a solicitor
Legal aid rules changed in April 2013, meaning most people who need a solicitor after separation or divorce must pay as a private client. However, legal aid is still available in certain circumstances. You are entitled to legal aid if: you are a victim of domestic abuse there are child protection issues there is a danger of your child being abducted   There is also a limited amount of independent legal advice funded through legal aid for people who have used mediation.   Legal aid is still available for mediation Family mediators are professionals trained to help people at any point in the separation process. They will listen to you, provide you with legal information (but not advice) and help you make informed decisions about the future. You will usually be offered an individual one-to-one meeting, during which you can talk through your situation and discuss what to do next. It is a personalised service and the mediators can also signpost you to the specific help you need. Using mediation alongside a solicitor can be a good way of keeping costs down. If you do not qualify for legal aid, mediation fees are generally cheaper than using solicitors. Research shows that agreements are made more quickly than going to court [1].   You can find more information on how to contact local mediation services that offer legal aid through Resolution.   Legal aid for a solicitor You may qualify for legal aid to see a solicitor if: you are a victim of domestic abuse and have evidence If you do not qualify for legal aid, you can ask a solicitor if they offer a free half hour or a fixed fee initial meeting.   References [1] Bourn, J (2007). Legal Services commission: Legal aid and mediation for people in family breakdown. National Audit Office. London: The Stationary Office. http://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2007/03/0607256.pdf
Article | legal rights, co-parenting, children
2 min read
Family courts – What they expect from you
Before you apply for a court order it is worth remembering that judges will expect you to have tried to agree. You and your ex have joint responsibility for working out the arrangements for your children. This duty continues when you separate, even if you have never lived together. If you can’t talk to each other, you will be expected to ask for help from a mediator or a solicitor. The court will expect each parent to put forward their case. It is the court’s duty to put the child’s welfare first. It can be hard for parents to accept that what they ask for may not be what is best for the child.   What courts say is best for a child: For parents to encourage the child to have a good relationship with the other parent. For parents to have a ‘good enough’ relationship with each other. For the child to spend time with both parents. The law sees it as the child’s right to have regular, personal contact unless there is a very good reason not to. In the rare cases where contact is denied, the court will have been satisfied that the child’s safety is at risk. Denial of contact is unusual and in most cases the contact ordered will be frequent and substantial, considering the child’s age and all the circumstances. In some cases, contact will be arranged on an interim basis which will be subject to review until the Court is satisfied that the amount and frequency of contact is right. Non-payment of child support is not a reason the court would consider denying contact.   Summary If you want to change agreed arrangements, the court will expect you to make sure the other parent agrees first or that you have used the help of a mediator or solicitor before going to court. Experience shows that court-imposed orders tend to work less well than agreements made between parents. Court proceedings are good for restoring contact when it has stopped and increasing it when it is insufficient. However, going to court does not necessarily improve the parenting relationship, which is so important to children’s wellbeing. While family mediation offers parents a chance to improve their relationship and focus on the needs of the child, going to court tends to teach couples how to argue!   Having a court order If there is a court order in place you must do what it says, even if you don’t agree with it. If you want to do something different, you must apply to the court to have it varied or discharged.
Article | legal rights, co-parenting, children
3 min read
Communication for separating parents
When parents first separate Couples separate in all sorts of ways: at one extreme, there’s the long talked about and planned separation and, at the other, there’s the sudden walkout, completely out of the blue. Thankfully, the majority fall somewhere in between. Separating from your partner can bring about some of the most open and honest conversations you have had for a long time. This is the point when many couples express the wish to be amicable and to give priority to making sure their children are all right. These are important moments that can make a big difference to how your family weathers the storm. However, when reality sets in post-separation, it can be hard to stick to these genuine intentions.  It’s hard not to be angry or upset with your ex, when faced with the stress and worry of all the adjustments you have to make. Because things may not always go smoothly, it helps to be clear about what your most important goals are for the future. Here are two that you might want to consider: To commit to supporting your children in having a free and uncomplicated relationship with the other parent. To keep whatever feelings you have about each other separate from your co-parenting relationship. These principles can serve as foundations for everything you do as co-parents. You may want to personalise them and add your own details, or use our free online parenting plan template to agree on some shared commitments.   Parents’ communication post-separation Having blocks of time when you do not see your children means both of you will miss out on some of the things your children are doing. It’s important to remember that children notice if one parent isn’t aware of things that are important to them – things like a school project, a lost toy or a fall from a bike. It’s not realistic to expect to have a full report of everything that happens to the children, but you should try to aim for regular updates to keep everyone involved. When you are co-parenting, communication has to become a more deliberate and thoughtful exercise than it was before. If you are the main carer, you are a vital link between the children’s day-to-day life and their other parent. The more you pass on, the easier the transition will be for the children going between the two homes. If you are the non-resident parent, it’s up to you to take an active interest in all aspects of the children’s lives. Don’t leave it all to your ex to keep you updated with the children’s news – ask how they are getting on, what they’ve been up to, and when the next parent’s evening is. Children feel secure and cared for when parents communicate clearly. Don’t leave it to the children to pass on their news and never ask children to communicate with their other parent on your behalf. You might find it impossible to imagine talking frequently and easily with your ex about the children. Some parents fall into conversation quite easily after separation but, for others, it can take years to feel OK. Take small steps and accept that it might take some time to get it right.   When communication is difficult Communication can be difficult because: You feel too anxious, angry, or upset to speak to the other parent. You always end up arguing – it’s easier to not talk at all. The other parent refuses to speak to you. You feel the other parent is more powerful than you. You simply don’t like the other parent. You struggled to communicate even when you were together.       Why it’s worth the effort In the long run, it will be easier on everyone if you find a way of communicating with your ex that works for you both. Children’s needs change as they grow older, and your life will change too – you need to be able to sit down together and talk about how these changes will affect you. Keeping the dialogue open and developing some goodwill makes the difficult conversations that much easier There are affordable divorce plans available from our partners at amicable, who have people available to talk through some of your options.
Article | separation, communication, co-parenting
4 min read
Managing a long breakup
During a break-up, many couples face the prospect of living under the same roof for some time – often for financial reasons.  Your home, once a place of comfort and rest from the outside world, can become a place of anger and tension and you can’t relax while you’re in the house together. This can put a big strain on the whole family, and your children will feel the effects of this unhappy atmosphere too. But there are some simple things you can do to help make the situation more tolerable. The first thing is to acknowledge the stress that you’re both under and make a plan to manage the situation so that everyone feels a little bit better.   CommunicationIt may be helpful to agree to limit your conversations to practical matters. Agree a time and place for the more difficult conversations that can arise from breaking up. Keeping these two areas separate will help you to maintain a calm environment for yourselves and your children.  ChildrenConsider how you will share your parenting responsibilities. Taking it in turns to be the parent ‘on duty’ at weekends and the evenings gives you both a chance to have time off. It also gives you a chance to test out possible parenting arrangements for when you live apart. Personal time and spaceIt may not be practical to divide up your home into separate areas but it’s important to respect each other’s privacy. Look for opportunities to go out and give each other some space - consider staying with friends or family occasionally, if this is practical. Time apart from each other gives you a chance to relax, feel normal and recharge your batteries. Make sure you both get a chance to do this from time to time. Living arrangementsYou may be happy to continue managing the household chores in the same way as before. However, if you do want to make changes, try to avoid misunderstandings by making sure you both understand what you are each expected to do. 
Article | breakups, co-parenting, children
2 min read
The issues surrounding shared parenting
The Dispatches programme Sharing Mum and Dad, aired on Channel 4 in January and provoked a lively Twitter debate among our followers including mums, dads and legal experts. The programme saw presenter Tim Lovejoy, who is divorced with two children, try to unpick the practicalities and legal complexities of shared parenting. If controversial Government proposals go ahead, a new clause will be inserted into the Children’s Act 1989 which states: …to presume that a child’s welfare will be furthered by the involvement of each of the child’s parents in his or her life, unless it can be shown that such involvement would not in fact further the child’s welfare. The Dispatches programme was an important one in that it brought a debate that had only been happening among academics, legal experts and professionals to a much wider audience. With one in three UK children experiencing family breakdown, the programme posed the crucial question: are we doing enough?  However, it set itself a tough challenge in trying to explore both the concept of shared parenting and asking if current legislation is working in just thirty minutes. The programme explained shared parenting as being the ‘alternative’ to one parent (usually the mother) being awarded sole responsibility by the courts, which ignores important aspects of the debate. The term ‘shared parenting’ can be problematic, particularly if parents interpret it to mean that they ‘get a share’ of the child. Splitting a child’s time 50/50 often places a huge amount of stress on their shoulders as it’s very hard to live in two homes and manage the practicalities of friends, school, etc. Often it is easier for a child – especially a very young child – to have their main home in one place. It is the court’s duty to do what is in the best interests of the child. While the quality of the parent-child relationship requires regular contact, equal access to both parents is always practical or in the child’s best interests – despite what parents feel. Parents should share responsibility for their children but that requires ex-partners, who are often hurt and angry, to look beyond their own needs and feelings and communicate well with each other. Separated parents need to co-operate and establish a new type of relationship with each other, focused on what is best for their children rather than themselves.
Article | shared parenting, media, legal rights
2 min read
What is co-parenting, exactly?
Co-parenting is a term often used by professionals but rarely by parents themselves. ‘Co-parent’ is a shortened version of ‘co-operative parent’, and co-operation is essential to making things work between ex-partners. However, if you are in the middle of a divorce or leaving a long-term relationship, you might feel like you don’t have the energy for co-operation. Most parents are tired, defensive, and hurt, and might feel more inclined to take revenge on each other than be co-operative. You may start to see co-parenting as short for competitive parenting! You might be competing as a way of showing your child they still matter or to offset your feelings of guilt. After all, few parents want to feel responsible for upsetting their children. So how are you expected to put all your hurt and anger to one side, avoid the competition, and co-operate with each other? Learning to be an effective co-parent is an ongoing process that will last as long as your children need you. Like any new skill, it takes time and practice to feel you are doing it well (or well enough) and there will be many times when you will feel you are getting it wrong and finding it really hard going. Think about when you first became a parent. The responsibility may have felt overwhelming you probably worried about getting it wrong but, over time, most of us figure out a way to grow in confidence. The same can be said of parenting after a relationship has broken down – you won't always get it right but there are some basics to think about that will help along the way. Respect each other's parenting style. Your ex might have different approaches to mealtimes, bedtimes and entertainment but try not to interfere. Unless the child is at risk of harm, you should try to accept the differences. When you speak about your child's other parent, use positive or neutral comments. Try to encourage family and friends do the same. However tempting it is, don't question your children about the other parent or encourage them to act as spies. If you have questions about what goes on at the other parent's home, ask your ex directly. Don't encourage children to complain about the other parent. If there is a problem, encourage them to talk to their other parent about it. Try and keep your feelings about your ex separate from your parenting decisions. Treat your child's other parent as you would like to be treated yourself. Whenever possible, communicate directly with each other. Never communicate through your child, even when they are older, and even on small issues. Texting and emailing can be useful but sometimes things can be misinterpreted. Share information about your child with each other. There should not be any competition around who has the most information. Make sure your child has what they need at each home. Your child shouldn’t have to carry the burden of ferrying stuff backwards and forwards between homes. Keep to financial arrangements and notify the other parent about any issues that will affect him/her. Make difficult decisions together and don't involve your child until you have agreed. Decide on the values you want your child to learn. Communicate about routines, bedtime, schedules, school expectations, discipline, etc. You may not always agree about these and, in some cases, there will be different expectations at each parent's home. But it is important that you discuss what goes on at each of your homes. Keep each other updated on your contact information. You should each know the other's address, telephone, work number, etc. You may also like to visit the Parenting Information Programme on the National Family Mediation website.
Article | co-parenting, children, separation
4 min read
Shared care – is it the best thing for you?
Fathers are more hands on than ever before but children in the UK are still mostly cared for by their mothers. For most parents, work commitments are the biggest barrier to a more equal sharing of time with children. Although there are parents with flexible or shift work that allows them a more equal role in bringing up their children, most families still follow the traditional model of dad as breadwinner and mum as primary carer. When parents separate, they are forced to rethink their childcare arrangements. It might seem like the most logical solution is to continue with a similar arrangement to when you were together. If you are the children’s main care provider, you might argue that it’s best for the children to live with you, and minimise the changes they are already going through. If you are not the main carer, you might worry that you will start to become less important in your children’s lives if they only get to see you occasionally. While there is never an easy answer to this question, it’s important to remember that the children’s needs come first – this is how a court would approach the question too. If you and the child’s other parent can get along and communicate well, then it’s much more likely that you’ll be able have a successful shared parenting arrangement. The following questions may help you see if shared care would work for your children: Can you communicate and negotiate fairly about the children? Do you respect your ex as a parent despite your relationship disappointments and personal differences? Can you put your personal disagreements and conflicts to one side and focus on what the children need? Can you compromise when there are disagreements? Are you willing to share control with your ex and respect the autonomy of their household? Do you have similar values around parenting? Can you tolerate your differences? Can you distinguish between the important and unimportant differences? Do you value what the other parent has to offer your child? Are you willing to put in extra time and effort to co-ordinate schedules? Is your child good at handling transitions? Did you share childcare when you were together? if not, is there a commitment to increase sharing now? This is just a guideline but, if you answer ‘yes’ to most of these questions, then you may be more successful at coming to a shared care agreement. If there are lots of no's, or just one or two that you’re concerned about, then it might be better to consider another type of arrangement that would suit your children better. Or, you could work on the problem areas with your ex. Using Family mediation may be helpful.
Article | co-parenting, children, separation
3 min read
Breaking down communication barriers
Most parents want to do everything they can to get the best for their child, but it’s not always easy working out how to parent together after separating. After a difficult separation or divorce, it can be a challenge to co-operate and make compromises with your ex-partner. Try to keep in mind that you are jointly responsible for your child as you work out a new relationship with each other. It may never be possible to have the same level of trust and respect for your ex-partner, but you should both aim for an arrangement you can both agree on, based around your child’s needs. It may take time to negotiate and work out how best to manage this relationship. The following tips may be helpful in helping you through the difficult early stages and making sure your child is shielded from the worst of the breakup. Maintain mutual respect for the sake of your child Try to respect each other’s parenting styles. Your ex-partner might have different approaches to mealtimes, bedtimes and entertainment. However, neither of you should try to interfere with the other’s parenting decisions unless you think they are detrimental or dangerous to your child. Use positive or neutral language when talking about your ex-partner in front of your child. Encourage your family and friends to do the same. If you want to know more about what goes on at your ex-partner’s home, ask them directly. Don’t use your children to find out what your ex-partner is up to, however tempting it may be. Discourage your child from complaining about their other parent. If your child has a problem, encourage them to talk to the other parent about it directly. Try to keep your feelings about the other parent separate from your parenting decisions. Treat the other parent as you would like to be treated. Keep in mind that however much you dislike or are frustrated by your ex-partner, your child still loves you both. Be aware that all children of separated parents, whatever age, will struggle with loyalty issues. Communication is vital Make sure you share contact details. You and your ex-partner should each have each other’s addresses and phone numbers so you can contact each other when you need to. This should include all school-related information. Both of you should be involved in all big life-changing decisions that may affect the child or each other. It may help to set up quite formal meetings to do this, in a neutral environment like a café. If possible, communicate directly with the other parent to avoid misunderstandings. Don’t use your child to pass messages between parents, even when they are older. Texting and emailing can be useful, but remember that both can be misinterpreted. Face-to-face contact or phone calls may be difficult, but could help you both to avoid misunderstandings. Sharing information is good for your child and essential for you as parents. There should be no competition between parents as to who has the most information. Difficult decisions should be made by both parents together. A shared responsibility Try to make both homes comfortable environments for your child, where they’ve got access to everything they need. The only things they should be carrying between homes are their own valued belongings – the special, unique things that make them feel secure. Always stick to financial arrangements. If you’re struggling, let the other parent know about any issues that might affect them as soon as possible. If there are difficult decisions to make, make them together. Your child needn’t be involved until you have reached an agreement. Share routines, bedtime, schedules, school expectations and discipline issues. You may not always agree and, in some cases, you and your ex-partner will have different expectations. It’s important to discuss these, as younger children can become confused and older children may try to play one parent off against the other. Further support For more support with improving communication and putting a parenting plan together, try our free online service at Splitting Up? Put Kids First.  
Article | communication, separation, children
4 min read
Child contact centres explained
Child contact centres are neutral places where children meet the mother or father who no longer lives at home with them. The centres provide a valuable service in allowing contact to take place which otherwise might not happen. There are two types of child contact services – supported and supervised.  Supported child contact centres are often held in community centres or church halls. They have facilities to help children build up or maintain their bond with the non-resident parent and other family members. Staff and volunteers are available to assist parents and help create a comfortable atmosphere.  They also deal with the handover of the child so ex-partners don’t need to meet. The staff are completely impartial and are not there to monitor or write reports about parents.  The only things recorded are the dates and times of attendance.  If the contact goes well – and everyone agrees – the next step might be for the parent and child to spend some time together outside of the contact centre. Sometimes the contact centre is used just to help with the handovers. After a while, many parents will feel confident enough that the contact centre is no longer needed. If you feel that a contact centre would be helpful to you, visit NACCC or talk to your solicitor, social worker, health visitor or doctor. In most cases, you will need a referral. Supported contact centres are suitable for families where no significant risks have been identified for the child or those around them. Where there are risk factors, supervised contact may be necessary. Supervised contact gives priority to the physical safety and emotional wellbeing of a child. It also assists in building and sustaining positive relationships between a child and members of their non-resident family. This requires skilled supervisors who are confident enough to intervene if necessary and can work with vulnerable children and distressed adults. Referrals will usually be made by a court, CAFCASS officer, local authority, or another child contact centre.
Article | separation, children, family
2 min read
Children and separation: first steps for parents
Knowing how to deal with the practical issues of separation – sorting out new living arrangements, arranging child support, dividing assets – can help your life run more smoothly at a difficult time. Even though you are no longer in a romantic relationship with your child’s other parent, your first job is to build a new kind of relationship – a parenting partnership. Try to remember that your children's experience of your ex-partner is different from yours. Focus on your strengths as partners and parents, and let your children’s needs guide you. Communicating with your ex Avoid blaming yourself or your partner. Agree not to let your own relationship issues come into the discussion. Create some rules together about how to manage meetings. If the conversation breaks down, agree to stop and continue at another time. Don't use your child to pass message between you and your partner. Focus on child-related issues and stick to the point. Work on a parenting plan   When you can't see eye to eye It’s inevitable that there will be some conflict or disagreement, but if you find that you can't see eye to eye, or if you're worried about anything, you could benefit from the help of a third party. This doesn't have to mean going through the courts. Mediation, arbitration or coaching can help you to negotiate your decisions and communicate better with your ex. A trained mediator's job is to act as an impartial third party, helping you exchange information, ideas and feelings constructively. Deciding on the best service for you depends on your circumstances: a mediator can help you manage you reach a decision around finances  and childcare, whereas an arbitrator can create a legally binding contract and is an alternative to court. Alternatively, our partners at amicable offer coaching sessions to help you and your ex-partner resolve your differences. Many parents end up distracted and upset during separation and find it hard to give their child the support they need. If you need help, call on a friend, health professional or counsellor. A sympathetic ear and a bit of reassurance can make life more manageable. Grandparents and other relatives can also be a source of support for you and your child. Does contact matter? Most children want contact with both their parents and carry on seeing both of them as part of their family. Keeping in contact with the parent who has left home reassures a child that, although life will be different, they are not losing one of their parents. The pain of separation and change can be worse for children if they also lose touch with others they are close to. Keeping in touch with other family members (who may also be able to offer extra support) can help a child adjust to new family arrangements. During contact time, it's the quality of parenting that matters most, not the amount of contact. Effective parenting, showing an interest, encouragement, love, and warmth are what counts. However, there are situations where contact may be damaging - for example, where there is no previous relationship or where there are known risks of abuse or neglect, domestic violence, or extreme conflict between the parents. In these cases, the court may place restrictions around contact, and these should be heeded.
Article | separation, children
3 min read
Protecting children during separation
Around one in three children in the UK are likely to experience parental separation before the age of 16. Knowing the effects that a breakup might have can help you protect against them and give your children the best chance at managing the change. One of the most common effects children of separated couples will notice is having less money. Children whose parents split up are also more likely to struggle with social, emotional and cognitive development. This is true whether the parents were married or not. Children’s health can also suffer – physically and psychologically. Children of separated parents are more likely to act out and take part in risky behaviours like substance misuse. Children of separated couples also tend to have problems at school and may have difficulty with future employment prospects. Children of separated couples may also face challenges when it comes to forming successful relationships of their own when they grow up. Do all children of separated couples have problems? Not all children will suffer long-term harm from the breakup of a relationship. If the relationship between separated parents remains friendly, most children can adjust to the new family situation, even after an initial period of unhappiness and instability. The main factors in protecting children from these risks are: Good quality parenting. A lack of financial hardship. The stability of the parents’ relationships after the separation. There may not be much you can do about financial hardship, but you can certainly support your child by making an effort to get on well with your ex-partner. If you and your ex are still arguing, try to keep it away from your child. Work towards resolving your differences and creating a stable home life. If you are looking for an affordable route to divorce, contact our partners at amicable about the options available to you. Who is affected the most by separation: boys or girls? There is some evidence showing that boys find separation more upsetting to begin with, but that the effects on girls are more likely to last longer. Boys tend to find it easier than girls to adjust to stepfamilies, particularly in early adolescence. Generally speaking, older boys and girls find it harder than younger children to adjust to a new family. However, younger children might not be as aware of their parents’ relationship problems, so the separation can sometimes come as more of a shock. This may lead to younger children feeling more confused and anxious, and can even result in them blaming themselves for the separation. The impact of new partners and families There is also a link between behaviour problems and the number of relationships the parents have after the separation. When you get together with someone else, there is a transitional period for the child. They are already adjusting to a new way of life and meeting a new step-parent means another transition for them to deal with. Research shows that multiple transitions can be bad for a child’s behaviour, leading to behaviour problems and hyperactivity. Many children find a parent’s remarriage more stressful than the separation itself. If you’ve met a new partner, be aware that the introduction is going to be a big deal for your children, and consider the long-term future of the relationship before taking any big steps. Children may find it easier to deal with a parent’s new partner if the other biological parent is not starting a new relationship at the same time. If you and your ex are both moving on, consider making the introductions at different times. Having a stable family situation in at least one home could really help your child. Protecting children from the effects of separation The good news is that you can take steps to limit the effects of separation on your children, and they needn’t suffer any long-term harm. There’s no simple formula to follow, but the key factors linked to positive outcomes for children are: Good quality, warm parenting from both parents. Continuing good relations and co-operation between parents. Social support for the child from extended family and friends. So, keep on nurturing your child, try to maintain good relations with your ex-partner and make sure you’re involving good friends and other family. It may still be an unsettling time, but your child can emerge safely at the other side if they feel well supported and safe from conflict. If you’d like some extra help managing the transition, try our free online parenting plan.
Article | children, separation
4 min read
How to tell your children you are separating
Children react to separation and divorce in lots of ways – they may feel partly responsible; they may grieve for what they and their parents have lost; they may feel relieved; or they may feel angry and confused. Depending on their age, children show their distress differently. Babies and young children may become clingy or have trouble sleeping; older children may get very angry, have trouble playing with others, or might side with one parent over the other. Children need time and help to adapt. Most children will have some difficulty coming to terms with their new family life; a few may have long-term difficulties that can lead to emotional and behavioural problems. There are no hard and fast rules applying to children and divorce, but if you need help for yourself or in supporting your children, call on a friend, health professional or counsellor. Taking time to talk and listen Children can usually sense problems (even if they can't hear them) and will often think the worst, such as believing they are to blame for the separation. Telling them about what's going on can help them to make some sense of the situation. Listening to what children want future arrangements to be like, and reassuring them that they're not responsible for making final decisions, will help them to feel that their views are important but that they are not expected to have to choose between parents. You can help children feel more secure by supporting them to express their feelings, letting them know you understand how they feel, and making sure they know they can ask questions if they want to. Children often feel a great sense of loss. Letting them grieve is an important part of helping them to deal with the situation and to move on to accept the changes in their family relationships. Denial is a common response to big changes. Children may also express anger towards you. It’s all part of the process – try not to take it personally. A child will naturally have hopes and fantasies about the family, such as wanting you all to be reunited. Talking about these feelings, without raising false hopes, will help your child to move on. Being reassuring Children often feel they've done something wrong and that they are to blame for the breakup. Reassured them that they're not responsible and that, although the situation may be painful and difficult right now, you want to make things better for the future. Children are often afraid that if their parents loved each other before and now don't, they might stop loving them too. This fear can increase if there is a new partner or new children. Children feel more secure if they are reassured again and again that they are loved, and that although you and your partner feel differently about each other, you will continue to love and take care of them. Protecting them from your problems Children need to feel happy about enjoying the time they spend with the other parent. This can be hard, as they are often aware of the difficulties you are having. Reassure them that it's OK to love the parent who has left and avoid making them feel they should take sides. Hearing you criticise or blame the other parent can be extremely distressing for children. Avoid doing this in front of them so they don't feel burdened by information and details that they don't need to hear. To help your children to not feel guilty and responsible for the separation, it's especially important to avoid arguing in front of them. Keeping stability and a routine Sticking to a daily routine can help to keep other aspects of life as stable as possible. Try to wait before making any other big changes, like moving house or school, to avoid any further emotional and practical disruption. Encouraging children to see their friends, and keep up with hobbies or other activities, can help them keep some continuity in their lives. Some children may feel guilty about doing 'normal' things and having fun. Let them know it’s OK to do the things they usually enjoy. Children tend to do best when they are in a stable, predictable environment, and need to know that there are limits (limits they will sometimes test!). Being consistent can help a child to work through things more clearly. It will help if you and your ex-partner agree about discipline and are consistent in how this is carried out. Accepting support from others Finding people you can talk to and making sure you feel supported will help you avoid burdening your child with your emotional distress by confiding in them or relying on them for support. Children benefit from other people's support too. Grandparents or other family members can be an important support to both you and your children when they are worried. If teachers and other important adults in your child's life know about the separation, they can be more sensitive to your child too. When you are ready go ahead with the separation, our partners at amicable can help you find an affordable route to divorce.
Article | children, separation
5 min read
When to tell children about separating
When and how to tell the children Most parents agonise about how the decision to separate will affect their children. Understandably, they worry about how to break the news and are apprehensive about how the children will respond. This is what happened in three families: 1. Michael, aged 10 Mum and Dad were arguing again and I was in my room, where I usually go when they’re shouting at each other. Then I heard Dad shouting for me and my sister to go downstairs – he sounded really angry and we were a bit frightened. Mum was crying and pleading with dad to stop and we knew it was bad. Dad said he was leaving and that it was all Mum’s fault and then he left and drove away. We didn’t understand what was going on or what would happen next. We didn’t know when we’d see dad again.  2. Grace, aged 7 We were having tea, when mum and dad said, “Oh, we’re getting divorced, but don’t worry everything will be fine”. They didn’t really tell us anything else and I was so shocked I didn’t know what to say. I think they were pretending to be cheerful and I could tell they didn’t want to talk about it so we all carried on as normal. Later, mum asked if I was OK and I said yes, but I was crying inside.  3. Jack, aged 10 and Courtney, aged 13 Mum and Dad said they wanted to talk to us in the kitchen. They looked serious. Mum said they had sad news – they were separating and dad was going to move into a flat nearby at the end of the month. Dad explained that they had been happy together once and one of the best things was having us children. They had tried to work things out but decided that the best thing would be for dad to move out. Mum said that love between grownups can change and it’s different from the love that parents have for their children. They said Dad would still see us lots; that we could stay with him in the flat and that he’d still pick us up from school once a week. We all cried a bit. Parents want to get it right and with good reason because, unless they are very young, children will remember how they found out about their parents’ separation for the rest of their lives. It helps if you set aside some time to plan how to break the news.  When to tell the children The biggest impact on children is from the physical separation, so tell them before it happens. This gives them time to get used to it and ask questions while both parents are in the house. If you’re not sure when the physical separation will happen or if it is not likely to happen for some time, consider delaying the announcement, as there’s a risk your children might think it’s not really going to happen. How to tell the children Ideally, both parents should tell the children together. If this is not possible, try to agree on what to say, so that there are no misunderstandings and the children get the same message.Be prepared – it will still be a difficult thing to do and it might not stop you from feeling upset, but you will be more confident that you are giving the children the information they need. Brothers and sisters can be supportive in a family crisis, so try to have all the children present if you think it is appropriate.  What to say There are five key things to remember when telling the children. Tell your children what to expect. Give them an explanation that they can understand. Offer lots of reassurance about the ongoing involvement of the parent who is leaving. Your children will need some time to take the news in. Give them a chance to express their worries and ask questions. Telling the children is a gradual process. The first talk is just the start of an ongoing conversation. When you are ready go ahead with the separation, our partners at amicable can help you find an affordable route to divorce.
Article | separation, children, family
4 min read
Breaches of contact order arrangements
We get lots of questions about what to do when a former partner breaches contact arrangement rules. In some cases, people have found that the other parent won’t co-operate, or is late or doesn’t show up. But, of course, every case is different and the circumstances that lead a parent to breach contact arrangements change from person to person. Here, Charlotte Sherborne, an Associate at Hugh James Solicitors who specialises in family law, explains what happens if a former partner breaches contact order arrangements: One of the most difficult parts of separation for parents is agreeing on contact arrangements for the children. If an amicable arrangement can’t be achieved, many parents can then choose to go through mediation or, as a last resort, issue Children Act proceedings to ask a court to decide what should happen. Sadly, for some parents this is not the end of the story.Having obtained a court order, many parents find their former partner breaches the order, leaving them once again being denied contact with their children. What can you do if a court order is breached? If there are regular and intentional breaches of an order by a former partner then it may be necessary to bring the matter back to court and to bring enforcement proceedings. However, this should be a last resort as it only causes more friction and expense.Depending on the case and the nature of the breaches involved, the court has the power to order community service or a fine, and, in cases of the most serious and repeated breaches, a court can have the power to issue a prison sentence, although this is very rare indeed as often the parent breaching the order is also the children’s primary carer. So, what is the best approach to take? Try to sort things out amicably, get a proper understanding of your rights, manage your expectations and constantly review your child’s circumstances’. This will result in the least amount of conflict. It also gives you the flexibility and goodwill that is very hard to achieve if you go through the court process.  Charlotte qualified as a solicitor in 2003. Throughout her career Charlotte has worked and practised law in London, most recently at the leading niche firm Family Law in Partnership LLP. She now works at Hugh James where she specialises in Family Law, Divorce and separation, Pre-nuptials and living together.
Article | breach, legal rights
4 min read
Father’s rights for unmarried couples
Parental responsibility is a legal term that means you have the right to be involved in important decisions like your child’s living arrangements, education, religion and medical treatment. It’s not automatically given to all fathers, so it’s important to understand how it works, particularly if you’re going through a separation and dealing with childcare arrangements. Who has parental responsibility? Being the child’s biological father does not automatically give you parental rights. If you weren’t married when your child was born, you may not have parental responsibility. This will depend on how the birth was registered. Registering the birth of your child All births should be registered within 42 days (six weeks) of the baby being born. Birth certificates are required to have the details of the biological mother and - where possible - the details of the biological father.In other words, if you’re not married to the child’s mother, you need to be present at the birth registration to guarantee your right to parental responsibility. Who can register the birth? It is usually the mother’s responsibility to register the birth, but the father can do it on his own if he is married to the mother. An unmarried father can only register the birth on his own if the mother has made a statutory declaration acknowledging him as the father of the child, or if he brings along a parental responsibility agreement or a court order. When an unmarried father doesn’t sign the birth register, his details aren’t included on the birth certificate and he is not given parental responsibility. If this is the case for you, there are two ways to get parental responsibility: Make a statutory declaration acknowledging that you are the father. The mother must give this to the registrar. Present a parental responsibility agreementor court order at the register office. It’s also possible to re-register the birth at a later date to include your details. You’ll need the mother to agree to this. What is parental responsibility? Parental responsibility (PR) is a legal term, defined in the Children Act 1989 as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authorities which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”. Without parental responsibility, you don’t have any right to be involved in important decisions like where the child lives and goes to school. You could also be left out of big decisions like taking the child out of the country. Since 1 December 2003, fathers who register a child’s birth with the mother automatically have parental responsibility. If your child’s birth was registered before this date and you were not married to the mother, you can apply to re-register the birth with the mother’s agreement, or apply for a court order or agreement. You automatically have parental responsibility if: you are the biological mother of the child you are the father of the child and are married to (or later marry) the mother you are an unmarried father and are registered on the birth certificate (this only applies to births registered since 1 December 2003) you have adopted the child   You do not have parental responsibility if: you are an unmarried father and are not registered on the birth certificate you are not the biological parent, even if your partner is You can get parental responsibility in the following ways: If you are the biological father: you can re-register the birth with the mother you can make a PR agreement with the mother’s consent you can apply to the court for a PR order if the mother refuses to make an agreement If you are the partner of the biological parent and your partner’s child lives with you, you can get PR in one of several ways: you can ask the court for a residence order; you can make a PR agreement with consent from the child’s parents; you can apply for a court order; or, you can apply for an adoption order. Further support Gov.uk has more information on parental rights and responsibilities.
Article | fathers, legal rights, separation
5 min read

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