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Health and relationships
The quality of your relationship with your partner (and with friends, colleagues and family members) affects both your mental and physical wellbeing. Similarly, how good you feel emotionally and physically can affect how you get on with your partner - perhaps even more than you realise. |[profileDataBundle id=1]| Improving your relationship quality can have a positive effect on your health, affecting related behaviours like exercising and drinking that can, in turn, affect how you get on. Of course, relationships go through ups and downs. But when we are unhappy or frustrated it’s easy to ignore what we know is good for us. Risky behaviours can provide an escape but sometimes we can fall into habits that are bad for both our health and our relationship. The good news is that, by taking stock and taking a good look at our patterns of behaviour, we can start making a few changes and things can start feeling very different. Have a look at the following questions and then share your answers with your partner. This can help you to assess the bigger picture and start changing some of the behaviours that could be affecting your relationship. Overall, how well do you feel on a day-to-day basis? Where would you score your physical health on a scale of one to 10, with ten being best it can be? Do you smoke? If so, how much, and at what times of day? What are your triggers for smoking? How often do you drink? Do you drink to unwind, to be social, or to shut things out? How well do you eat? Do you and your partner eat together – are cooking and eating well important parts of your relationship? Are you over or underweight? How do you feel about your body? How well do you sleep? –What, if anything keeps you awake? Can you see any patterns? Do you exercise regularly? How do you feel after exercising? How often do you have sex? Do you enjoy sex with your partner? Are you currently working? How does your work affect how you feel? If you have a bad day at work, what impact does it have on your home life? How do you know you are overstressed? What are the signs? What makes you feel good physically? What makes you feel good emotionally?   What next? Have a look at your answers. How does the overall picture look? Does it look good or feel a bit overwhelming? Are there any patterns you’d like to change? If you have any habits or recurring behaviours that aren’t serving you, look at the underlying reasons. Take it slowly – recognising the need for change is a crucial first step. Don’t try to change everything at once. If you are a smoker, that’s a good place to start. Consider cutting down, or just keeping a log of when you smoke and how you feel before and after. Start to notice what need you are trying to fulfil by smoking, and whether it’s working for you. If you want to eat better, start by introducing some small changes to your diet. Get a new cookbook or look up some recipes online. Experimenting with new dishes can be fun. Set aside some time to plan and cook a healthy meal with your partner – this one positive shared experience could be the first step towards getting out of a mealtime rut. Poor sleep, drinking too much and work stress are all issues that can contribute to how you get on with your partner, often leading to arguments. It can feel overwhelming to address these issues at once – a good place to start might be taking some regular exercise. It doesn’t matter what, so long as it is something you can enjoy that fits in with your work and family demands. Exercise can also have a positive impact on other areas of your life, releasing natural chemicals that improve your mood and make you feel happier. Adopting a more active lifestyle can improve your mental health, giving you a positive reminder you that the choices you make affect how you feel. Leading a more active life can give you a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and help you sleep better. It can improve your self-esteem and confidence, helping you feel more valued, and more attractive. Exercise and physical activity can give you something positive to strive for and commit to. It can help you to stop dwelling on problems and, in time, you may even start to enjoy it!   A word of warning! If this exercise has brought up any issues you find difficult to talk about, you may find it helpful to use some of the communication exercises and articles elsewhere on the site. If you have identified that you or your partner are drinking too much, you may need to seek professional help – looking at the articles on addiction on the site can be a positive first step.
Article | Health
5 min read
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 download this form from the Courts & Tribunals Service website 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: he 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. Follow this link for further information on separating tips and advice.
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 andcome 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 and business-like attitude A positive attitude you will be able to sort things out between yourselves Based on Tips to Prepare for Child Custody Mediation by Philip M Stahl  www.parentingafterdivorce.com 
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. 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. Follow this link for further information children in the middle after a separation.
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 break-up
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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