Website of the UK government

Please note that this website has a UK government accesskeys system.

Public services all in one place

Main menu

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Relationship breakdown and your children

There is help available if you want to try to save your relationship. However, if the relationship has definitely broken down there are also ways you can help make the break-up as painless as possible for your children.

Can't see the video?


To play this video you need Adobe Flash Player version 9 or higher on your computer and have JavaScript enabled on your browser. Our Help with video files page gives advice if you are unsure how to do this. The Flash software is free.


A counsellor can help you discuss your problems and will help couples that want to save their relationship. Counsellors are trained to listen and to help you work out your own solutions to relationship problems.

If your relationship has definitely broken down, counselling can help the family come to terms with what is happening. It could also lead to better family decisions and long-term relationships after the break-up.

How can you help your children?

Relationship breakdown can be a very emotional time for children, so try to bear the following in mind:

  • children often think the divorce or separation is their fault - reassure your child that it's not
  • try to avoid asking the child who they want to live with – they may feel they are being asked which parent they love more
  • older children may become resentful of one of the parents if they feel that one parent is 'to blame' – try to encourage children not to 'take sides'
  • stability is important to children - encourage your children to keep following their usual routine, but don't force them
  • if you feel angry towards your partner, don't let this boil over into physical or verbal violence - children can suffer if they see such behaviour
  • try to resolve conflicts with your partner early - the longer you leave a problem, the worse it can be for your children
  • don't use your children to negotiate for you and don't ask them to keep secrets or give you information about your partner
  • tell your children that it is okay to cry and don't make them feel guilty about showing affection or concern about their other parent
  • the 'It's not your fault' website is written for children to help them understand more about divorce/separation and their feelings

Keeping your children informed

It is important to keep your children informed at every stage of your separation or divorce. You are not protecting them by keeping things from them.

Tell your children what is happening. They don't need every detail, but they do need to know what is going on. They may not wish to be involved in making decisions, but most children will still want to feel they are being listened to.

Encourage your children to ask questions and give them honest and reassuring answers, but don't promise what you can’t deliver. If something is not yet decided, then say so and reassure them that you will tell them as soon as you can.

Arrangements for your children – if you are divorcing

The divorce process can be a lot easier on everyone involved if court is avoided. So instead of going to court, you can fill out a form called ‘Statement of arrangements for the children’, also known as form D8A. However, this will only be accepted if:

  • there is no doubt about the child’s safety
  • you agree on financial support for the child
  • you agree on where the child will live

If there is disagreement about any of these things then a judge might have to get involved. A judge will not grant your divorce if they do not think the arrangements for the children are acceptable.

Arrangements for your children – if you are unmarried

Unmarried couples who are splitting up often agree on arrangements for the children beforehand, so there is no need for the courts to get involved. Where there is a dispute over custody or contact however, an application can be made to the court by filling in form C100.

Reaching an agreement with family mediation

Reaching an agreement out of court about issues like your children’s care is less stressful and is usually better for everyone involved. Family mediation is a good way to achieve this, by helping you to work out solutions in ways that avoid confrontation.

Useful contacts

Was this information useful?

Thinking about what you have just read, how useful did you find the information?
Thinking about what you have just read, how useful did you find the information?
500 character limit

Why are we asking for this information?

  • we want to hear what you think about the quality and usefulness of our pages
  • your comments will help us improve our pages
  • your comments will also help with the future development of Directgov
  • telling us what you think will help make sure we give you the very best service

Additional links

Building a strong relationship

Want help with your relationship? Know where to go?

Access keys