Child contact when you divorce or separate
You can choose how to make contact arrangements for looking after your children if you separate from your partner.
You and your ex-partner can usually avoid going to court hearings if you agree on:
- where the children will live
- how much time they’ll spend with each parent
- how you’ll financially support your children
You can use a solicitor if you want to make your agreement legally binding.
You can agree on child maintenance at the same time or separately.
Get help agreeing
You can also get help and information from:
If you cannot agree on everything
You can ask a court to decide anything you cannot agree after mediation.
You must show you’ve attended a meeting to see if mediation is right for you before applying to a court. You will not have to in certain cases, for example if there’s been domestic abuse or social services are involved.
You will not usually get legal aid to help with court costs unless you’re separating from an abusive partner.
The type of court order you need depends on what you’ve been unable to agree on. You can apply for more than one court order.
Arrangements for your child
A ‘child arrangements order’ decides:
- where your child lives
- when your child spends time with each parent
- when and what other types of contact take place (phone calls, for example)
‘Child arrangements orders’ replace ‘residence orders’ and ‘contact orders’. Parents with these orders do not need to re-apply.
Find a solicitor if you need legal advice.
Your child’s upbringing
A ‘specific issue order’ is used to look at a specific question about how the child is being brought up, for example:
- what school they go to
- if they should have a religious education
You can also apply for a ‘prohibited steps order’ to stop the other parent from making a decision about the child’s upbringing.
Who can apply
The child’s mother, father or anyone with parental responsibility can apply for a court order.
Other people, like grandparents, can apply for these court orders, but they’ll need to get permission from the courts first.