If your relationship ends, you need to try to resolve child custody arrangements yourselves before you can go to court.
Working out custody
You can apply for urgent help if you have a very good reason for needing it. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) explains what these reasons typically are, and what you’ll need to do — including other options if you cannot afford a lawyer.
It’s best if you can agree directly with your partner who’ll take care of your children when you separate. If you cannot agree on custody, you have to follow a process to try and resolve it yourselves before it gets to court.
Complete a parenting through separation course
This free course helps parents focus on the needs of children. You have to do this first.
Mediation run by a family dispute resolution service provider
If you cannot agree on custody after completing the course for parenting through separation, you’ll work with a mediator to help you decide together how to care for your children.
There’s a cost for mediation, but some people qualify for funding.
Apply to the Family Court
If you still cannot agree after completing the course and mediation, you can apply to the Family Court to make a custody order.
A lawyer may represent you at any time during the process.
For more information call the family justice help line on 0800 224 733.
Help for kids
Information that’s written for kids to help them understand what’s going on when their parents separate.
Help for parents
For parents, the Ministry of Justice also has advice and resources for getting help for your children. These include:
- counselling and support
- the previously mentioned ‘Children’s guide to separation’
- factsheets — about, for example, answering difficult questions and understanding what children are going through during the separation.