Friday 7 December 2012


It's really important to get familiar with the language of family law and procedure, and an understanding of your rights, before you see a solicitor. If you are well prepared you will save time and money.

Firstly here is some
helpful advice, and the dedicated Divorce/separation Talk topic on Mumsnet. 

Not all of the following will apply to everyone, but these are the main issues you need to be aware of and think about.  


The welfare, needs and interests of children are paramount. Parents have responsibilities, not rights, in this regard. Shared residence means both parties having an equal interest in the upbringing of the children. It does not mean equal (50/50) parenting time - children are not possessions to be “fairly” divided between separating parents. 

A divorce will not be granted where children are involved unless there are agreed arrangements for finance, and care of the children (“Statement of Arrangements for Children”). It is obviously quicker and cheaper if this can be agreed between you but if there is no agreement, the Court will make an Order - “Residence and Contact” regarding children, “Financial Order” or “Ancillary Relief” in the case of Finance. Residence and Contact Orders are likely to be renamed Child Arrangements Orders in future.

You can also read about issues relating to child contact and get advice from, Rights of Women, Maypole, and Cafcass publications.

Parenting advice also be found at 
Family Lives and The Parent Connection. The Gingerbread single parent freephone helpline is 0808 802 0925 Monday 10am- 6pm, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday - 10am to 4pm, Wednesday 10am-1pm and 5pm-7pm.

The Government has recently updated its information on all aspects of divorce, separation and child maintenance, 
here. Download the Sorting out Separation web app or go straight to Tools and Leaflets.


Get word of mouth recommendations for family lawyers in your area if possible. If you have children at school or nursery, ask mums you are friendly with if they know of anyone who can make a recommendation in your area. These days there are few people who don’t know of anyone who has been through a divorce or separation – there’s a lot of knowledge and support out there!

Many family lawyers will offer the first half hour consultation free. Make use of this. Don’t just stick with the first lawyer you find – shop around and find someone you feel comfortable with. You may be in for a long haul, so it helps if you can find a solicitor you’re happy with.

If you can’t find any local recommendations, always see a solicitor who specialises in Family Law.

If you take legal action to protect yourself or your family from domestic violence, you may qualify for legal aid without having to meet the normal financial conditions. The income of an abusive partner will not be taken into account when deciding whether you qualify for legal aid. See below for further links in relation to DV.

Whether or not you case involves DV, you can find out about Legal Aid and get advice on the 
Community Legal Advice Helpline on 08345 345 4 345, and search in your area for Community Legal Advisors.

See also the 
Govt guide to divorce and access CAB advice.

Rights of Women have lots of helpful advice on their website, or you can telephone their Family Law helpline on 020 7251 6577 (Mondays between 11am-1pm, Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 2pm-4pm and 7pm-9pm, Thursdays between 7pm-9pm and Fridays between 12noon-2pm).

Co-operative Legal Services offer DIY/Self-Help Divorce packages, as well as a Managed Divorce service. Their fee structure is more transparent and they have a telephone advice line as well as offering really good advice on their website. Take a look at the recent Mumsnet Q&A with Christina Blacklaws, their Director of Family Law.

Resolution is an organisation of 5500 family lawyers in England and Wales who are committed to resolving divorce and separation disputes constructively. Through their website you can search for a Resolution Lawyer in your area. 

DivorceAid is another useful website with lots of advice and a search facility for specialist family lawyers.

Take a look at 
Wikivorce, a Government sponsored charity which has a very informative website. However, be always be wary of “DIY low cost divorce”, but few divorces are amicable and straightforward enough for this to work. Good legal advice may seem costly but it is usually a worthwhile investment.

I found these family law firm guides informative and easy to read – 
Terry and Woolley & Co. There are others of course.

Some family law solicitors publish online feedback from clients – Google solicitors by name to see if they publish recommendations or feedback.


You will be encouraged to attend mediation. This can help by facilitating discussion about arrangements for children and finance in a structured way in a neutral setting. However, it only works if both parties are willing to reach agreement. If there has been violence or emotional abuse, mediation is unlikely to be appropriate or useful – so make sure your solicitor knows your concern. Often solicitors will be able to recommend a Family Mediator in your area who they have worked with in the past.

Always get legal advice, and make a note of what you want from the process, before you begin mediation. This is important because while a Mediator should have knowledge of family law, and will often explain family law, they are not there to give tailored legal advice to either party - so it’s important to have that first.

You can find a Family Mediator through 
National Family Mediation or the MoJ Family Mediation Helpline. 


Before your appointment with a family law solicitor, get hold of every single piece of financial information you have access to, and take copies or make notes. Wage slips, P60s, tax returns, employment contracts, pensions and other statements – savings, current account and mortgages, deeds, rental leases, utility bills, council tax bills, credit statements. Are there joint assets such as a home, pensions, savings, shares?

This is the useful Divorce and Separation calculator.
You can calculate 
Child maintenance using this calculator, and Tax Credits here.
MoneySavingExpert has a handy 5 minute benefits and tax calculator, so does the CAB.


This is a key question. If you are married, generally speaking you have greater protection when a relationship breaks down.

You can find useful guides to the differences in legal issues here in the 
CAB Advice Guide and also at Advice Now. This page on the Child Maintenance Options website also refers.


When it isn’t possible to access financial information, or you are aware that assets are being hidden from you, then obviously you will not be able to reach agreement on finances and need to discuss this with a solicitor.

If there are children, as you cannot divorce without adequate arrangements being agreed on finance and children, you will have to apply for a financial order anyway. 
If there are no children, and you are unable to agree on finances, you will also have to apply for a financial order. 
During this process, parties have to declare financial information going back 12 months. So it is in your interests to act quickly once you have made the decision to divorce.

The main considerations of the Family Courts where parties are unable to agree a settlement are (in no particular order of priority):

1.The welfare of any minor children from the marriage.
2.The value of jointly and individually owned property and other assets and the financial needs, obligation and responsibilities of each party.
3.Any debts or liabilities of the parties.
4.Pension arrangements for each of the parties, including future pension values and any value to each of the parties of any benefit they may lose as a result of the divorce.
5.The earnings and earning potential of each of the parties.
6.Standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.
7.The age of the parties and duration of the marriage.
8.Any physical or mental disability of either of the parties.
9.Contributions that each party may have made to the marriage, either financially or by looking after the house and/or caring for the family.


If you are living together (cohabiting) you don’t have the above protection when a relationship breaks down - however you may be able to secure housing for yourself and your children. If you are not married or in a civil partnership with each other and you have helped pay for the home, the other parent may not be able to sell it or prevent you living in it without a court order. But you must get legal advice and will need to give as much evidence as possible to support your case. 

If you have not helped pay for the home you may not be able to stay, even if you are the parent with the main day-to-day care of the child. 

If you are not married to each other and the home is in your name alone, you can apply to the court for an order to exclude the other parent. (You can’t do this if you are married to each other or civil partners, unless there has been domestic violence against you by the person who is to be excluded). 
Read this and talk to a housing adviser to find out your rights and discuss your options (telephone contact for Shelter in the linked leaflet and also below).


If you are in immediate danger of domestic violence always call 999. 

Otherwise, call 
The National Centre for Domestic Violence on their 24 hour helpline 0844 8044 999, or text NCDV to 60777 and they will call you. 

Women’s Aid and Refuge have a 24 hour freephone helpline, 0808 2000 247.

Shelter also has a freephone helpline 0808 800 4444 8am-8pm Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm Saturday and Sunday.

For Local Authority Housing advice, look at your 
LA website. If you have problems getting help with emergency housing from your local Council this can sometimes be resolved by taking the matter up with your local MP.

NB some of the above websites will have different advice and contacts for England, Scotland and Wales where the law or services may differ. If so they will provide the correct link for you on the website.

(V6 Dec 2012)


  1. This is a fantastic resource. Well done, and thank you so much for putting it together.

  2. The mediator engages a neutral specialist to render an opinion as to the matter in dispute.

    Cost family mediation & mediation service

  3. Thanks for sharing. A divorce mediator is the preferred method of divorce or separation for those couples who are willing and able to work with, not against, their spouse to work out the terms of their divorce or separation agreement.
    - divorce lawyer Suffolk county, NY

  4. Thanks so much for posting a lot of this awesome content about divorce mediation....its really helpful for us...
    Mediation Courses London & Family Mediation Association

  5. I like how you put the 'Children' above your priority list, as they would be the first to suffer if ever their parents decided to undergo custody battle. Although finance is a great factor for granting of custody, I hope the law would consider a child's opinion and let them choose who they want to stay with. Children know their parents better than anyone else.