Dads’ FAQs: Separation

10 October 2012


Questions we have been asked include:

‘Father wants his name on birth certificate; partner says no’

‘Wife wants to move out and take child – what can I do?’

‘Wife wants divorce; what are my rights re children?’

‘My son’s ex insists he pay for flights to Scotland for contact visits – he can’t afford these’

‘My pregnant girlfriend has been stealing money from my bank account. What rights do I have?’

Above all, remember that it is deeply damaging for children when their parents go to court. Their stress levels have been measured by researchers who have found that they are as high as the stress levels of children who are being put into foster-care. So, if at all possible, avoid court.


Mediation, where parents are helped to reach agreement over issues including residence, contact and child support, can be really helpful and effective – it usually results in both parents feeling more satisfied, and fathers seeing more of their children. The Legal Services Commission explains a bit more on the mediation process here or you can phone the helpline on 0845 345 4 345. The LSC can also point you in the direction of your local publicly-funded family mediation service.

National Family Mediation is the umbrella organisation for services which provide mediation service to separating and divorcing couples. Find out more on their website or call on 0300 4000 636. The Family Mediators’ Association is the membership body for family mediators.Check out their website or call 01355 244 594.

You may well find separation or divorce overwhelmingly difficult – lots of men (and women) do, and especially if you are suddenly seeing less of your children. There is surprisingly little research on the impact of separation on fathers. A small study conducted by the Fatherhood Institute and Families Need Fathers in 2012 shed some light on this subject. Read more here.

If you feel like you’re struggling, try to talk things through calmly with a trusted friend or family member – it’s important to share the stress. If you feel like things are getting you down to the point where it’s affecting your health, you may find it helpful to talk to your GP. Sometimes just talking to an interested stranger can help clear your mind and remind you that you’re a valid human being!

For practical help as you negotiate your way through separation or divorce, you may find it useful to get in touch with Families Need Fathers, whose website is here. Depending on where you are, FNF may have a local branch which can offer face-to-face support. It also offers a helpline (evenings only) – call 0300 0300 363 or email

Only when you have spoken with at least one of the organisations listed above – and have explored mediation and other methods of communicating with your child’s mother (perhaps a ‘neutral’ friend can help you both) – should you think about ‘reaching for a lawyer’.

Going down the legal route

  • FNF members may be able to point you in the direction of good solicitors; sometimes solicitors come and give free advice to local FNF branches.
  • Resolution (formerly known as the Solicitors Family Law Association) is a membership organisation for family lawyers ‘committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes’.  You can search for members near to you through its website. Or call on 01689 820272.
  • To find a low-cost lawyer, contact Citizens’ Advice on 08444 111 444 (England) or 08444 77 20 20 (Wales) – or find your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau via the Advice Guide website.
  • The Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (CAFCASS), provides support for families going through separation and divorce. It produces several leaflets for parents, including one on ‘Parenting plans’ for separating parents. Find out more on the CAFCASS website.

Joint birth registration

In June 2012, the government made noises about trying out a new approach to how births are registered – except in the most exceptional circumstances. The Fatherhood Institute has campaigned long and hard for this change, which will enable children to know who their father is, with a view to establishing and maintaining a relationship with him, whether or not the parents are together or were married. This can have far-reaching positive effects on a child’s emotional development in most cases. Read more.

Find links to other Dads’ FAQs articles here.


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