What happens to my children if I leave my partner?

You want to leave an abusive partner, but you’re worried about what will happen to your children.

Your priority will be to get yourself and your children to safety. But you might have questions about what the long-term arrangements for your family might be.

What do I need to do?

Assuming you and your children find a safe place to live, and you’re happy with your current arrangements, there’s no immediate need for you to do anything after you leave.

If the other parent is unhappy, they may ask you to attend mediation or go to court – where you’ll have an opportunity to give your concerns and put forward your side of the story.

Coming to an arrangement

At some point, you may need to come to an arrangement with the other parent to decide:

  • who the child lives with and how they spend time with the other parent
  • how the child’s living costs will be shared
  • important decisions about the child’s life usually made by people with parental responsibility – for example, about schooling, moving away or the child’s religion

But it may not be safe, possible or appropriate to come to an agreement with the other parent between yourselves, or through mediation. For example, you may be concerned about your or your child's safety.

You may need to go to court instead.

Get help from court

The court can decide who your child should live with and how they spend time with the other parent, and other important matters. The court can make orders about these issues, which are legally binding on both parents.

Usually, you’d have to try working things out with your partner through mediation before going to court. But you don’t have to do this if you can show you’ve experienced domestic abuse, or you or your child are at risk of harm.

When it makes its decisions, the court will put your child’s best interests first and will consider a number of factors, including any risk of harm to the child. If you have concerns about your or your child’s safety, you can tell the court. There may be a fact-finding hearing to establish what has and hasn't happened.

The Child Maintenance Service can settle how much each parent should contribute to the child’s living costs. They can do this without you having to contact the other parent directly, and can collect payments for you too.

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