Sometimes, despite having tried to work things out, relationships and marriages end in divorce or separation with couples going their separate ways. If you have children, it is important that your break-up is managed as smoothly as possible to minimise the impact on their emotional and mental health and wellbeing and to help them feel loved and supported by both parents.
Using the information and support on the previous pages can help you work through conflict and communication difficulties between yourselves and help you talk positively to your children about what is happening. Here, you can find organisations to help you sort through the legal implications of parenting apart, making contact arrangements and getting legal advice.
Making Child Arrangements
There is information available on GOV.UK on making child arrangements if you divorce or separate. It takes you step-by-step through agreeing a parenting plan together to what to do if you can’t agree.
Cafcass Parenting Resources
Cafcass represent children in family court cases in England. They will independently advise the family courts about what is safe for children and in their best interests. They are there to put the needs of the children first and make sure their wishes and feelings are heard in the family court setting. Cafcass also provide comprehensive guidance and resources on their website for parents and carers on all aspects of parenting apart, including how to create a parenting plan and providing a downloadable template. There is a separate section with information and resources for young people which covers what happens when parents separate and what might happen.
Family Justice Young People's Board (FJYPB)
Members of the FJYPB are aged between 7 and 25 years old and all have experience of the family justice system and children's rights. They support the Family Justice Board to deliver improvements to the family justice system so that it provides the best results for children who come into contact with it.
The FJYPB have produced a new Covid-19 booklet for children and young people with top tips for keeping in touch with family and friends as well as a whole range of downloadable top tips for professionals working with children and young people in different circumstances. They have also produced top tips for separating parents to help them work together for their children.
You will need to scroll down the page to find the top tips and click on each link to download the content:
Mediation is required before applying to court. It can also be a very helpful, less expensive and less stressful way of resolving differences as an alternative to going to court. Mediation is where an impartial person, trained in dealing with difficult discussions between two opposing sides, acts like a referee between them. Whatever your situation, they can help you sort out arrangements after splitting up. The following organisations can provide a mediation service:
- Relate Coventry and Warwickshire
- Family Mediation and Counselling Services
- Family Mediation Council
- SJ Mediation
- National Family Mediation
- UK Family Mediation Service
National Family Mediation are currently able to offer struggling separating couples a free one-hour online advice and support meeting with a family dispute resolution expert to help separating couples discuss their options and arrangements:
The Government has set up a time-limited voucher scheme to help with the cost of mediation. The scheme provides eligible separating couples with a £500 voucher towards the cost of mediation services. Mediation can help couples find amicable solutions without needing to go through the family courts. Only mediators authorised by the Family Mediation Council.
- Find out more about the Government voucher scheme
- Find out more about eligibility and how to apply through the Family Mediation Council
Contact centres allow parents to meet up with their children in a supervised area without having to make contact with the other parent. During the present coronavirus situation, these meetings will be supervised by the contact centre through online arrangements but would at other times be in a local contact centre. Contact centres in or near Warwickshire are given below:
- The National Association of Child Contact Centres – find your local centre
- Nuneaton Children’s Contact Centre
- DMR Services Coventry
- Swan Family Centres, Coventry
If you have tried to work out solutions together and are not able to come to an agreement, you may feel that you need legal advice. There are organisations who offer some free legal advice to help you understand your rights and responsibilities and resolve disputes around contact arrangements:
Child Law Advice
This organisation provides specialist advice and information on child, family and education law to parents, carers and young people. There is a free helpline and email service as well as a ‘book a call’ service which operates for a small charge. It is best to look at the information on the website first, if possible, to get an understanding of your needs and know what you want to ask before you call the service as the free call lasts half an hour.
This website contains comprehensive information, know-how tips and in-depth guides on various aspects of divorce and separation, including advice on how to sort out your legal problem before or instead of going to court and things to consider if you do go to court.
Resolution Family Law
A trusted professional can play a big part in helping to sort out issues involving the breakdown of your relationship, care of your children, your home and finances. Resolution members can help you find a professional lawyer should you need it. However, they have much more information and advice on their pages, to help you work things out constructively without the need to go to court. Get advice to help you work out your options and how best to support your children through the separation process, including resources on splitting up, children and the law, your rights when living together and domestic abuse.
Legal Advice for Individuals
LawWorks is a charity working in England and Wales to connect volunteer lawyers with people in need of legal advice, who are not eligible for legal aid and cannot afford to pay. If you have a problem and need legal advice to resolve it, you may be able to get help from a legal adviser or an organisation which specialises in your situation.
Support Through Court
Every year, many people face court alone, without any help. Their access to justice is limited by how overwhelming the legal system can be to those who have never faced it before, and many struggle to represent themselves effectively in court. Volunteers at Support Through Court provide a free service across England and Wales to offer support and guidance before, during and after court.
McKenzie Friends and Family Law Assistance
If you have been unable to resolve your legal dispute through mediation, it may be necessary to make an application through the courts or you may find yourself being taken to court by your ex-partner. This can be a daunting situation to find yourself in. A McKenzie Friend can help by supporting you through the court process before, during and afterwards. More information about family law and the support available can be found by clicking on the Services and Resources tabs on their website.
Family Rights Group
Family Rights Group work with parents whose children are in need, at risk or are in the care system and with members of the wider family who are raising children unable to remain at home. They advise parents, grandparents, other relatives and friends about their rights and options when social workers or courts make decisions about their children’s welfare.
Young Parents’ Advice
Young Parents’ Advice is for young parents whose children are in need, considered at risk, in care or adopted.
Central England Law Centre
Central England Law Centre provide free specialist legal advice to those most in need and use legal processes to fight social exclusion. Their advice covers a range of areas including asylum and immigration law and child and family law. They have also produced a Covid-19 legal information pack for those living in Coventry plus a range of useful leaflets.
- Find out more about Central England Law Centre
- Download the Covid-19 legal information pack
- Download leaflets and advice for professionals
Legal aid can help pay for legal advice. You may be entitled to legal aid if you are eligible under certain conditions. You can check if you can get legal advice on Gov.UK.
Find a Solicitor
Run by the Law Society, Find a Solicitor is a free service for anyone looking for information about organisations or people providing legal services in England and Wales that are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
Child Maintenance Options
Child maintenance is money to help pay for your child’s living costs. It is paid by the parent who doesn’t usually live with the child to the person who has most day-to-day care of the child. The definition of ‘child’ usually covers their school years and can be up to age 20 if they are in full time education or training.
- Check what child maintenance arrangement is right for you
- GOV.UK - Advice on making a child maintenance arrangement
Benefits and Universal Credit
Universal Credit helps towards your cost of living. If you are already claiming universal credit when a relationship breaks up, one partner needs to report any change to who lives with them on their online account. If you do this, the system will separate you and send information to each account on what to do next. You do not need to make a new claim. You may be eligible for other benefits and support if your circumstances change.