Separating from a long-term partner takes strength, no matter the situation you’re in. It usually upheaves your life whether you’re simply in a relationship that is amicably deteriorating or has been toxic for a while.
However, there are things to consider when it comes to kids. Take a look at our guide to the rights of parents going through a separation.
The rights of the mother
It is important to remember in divorces, that there are equal rights afforded to both mother and father as much as possible. Do not go into this assuming that you will automatically gain custody, and have your children live with you as their “main home” just because it is what you’ve seen done around you. Habit begets habit, and the court tends to encourage parents to decipher the basic arrangements among themselves if they can. Since not a lot of people are putting money away to pay a lawyer, this results in a lot of unhappy parents.
But if your ex-partner has the means and the will, they can fight for custody of your kids, and you might need to look into getting a family lawyer to settle things between you.
It’s also worth remembering that the two of you are supposed to share the duty of financial responsibility. If your ex-husband is granted full custody, you are likely to be told to provide child support as much as you would expect child support if the tables were turned.
The rights of the father
It is important to remember, if you have a husband, you are in the process of divorcing, that in the UK, the father has as much rights as the mother to see their child, have an ongoing relationship with them, and should share the responsibility. The law will not be on your side if you try to keep your children from their father without cause.
Something to understand is that the rights of the father change depending on whether or not they were married to the mother of their child. This is because it is a matter of law, which doesn’t see the black and white of “I am the father; therefore, I am due the right to see my child”.
Parental responsibility is only afforded to unmarried fathers in few circumstances, and will usually require either a family court case, both names on the birth certificate, or a legally binding written agreement between the parents. Without these, you might not have the right to access your child. You can read more about the rights of a father in the UK here.
The fact that you will always be in each other’s lives
The hardest thing to get your head around when you have children is that, from the moment they are born, you’re going to have their parent in your life forever. If you want to get poetic, you’ll often see their parent in their face or actions, but practically they will always be there too.
From everyday texts asking you to stop by with the sports gear to the small-talk transfer of kids on drop-off days, your ex will always be in your life. This can be painful, as the cold turkey option that is afforded other couples is off the table, making moving on a lot harder.
How you handle this will depend on not only how the relationship ended, but also your mental state and your attitude now. Maybe you’re striving to make this as easy on the kids and yourself as possible, so are aiming for friends that just happen to have kids, or maybe the relationship was too traumatic for that, and you want as little contact as possible.
Either way you’re going to have to establish some boundaries. This can be rules like asking to not arrive unannounced, or to keep to texting and save phone calls for emergencies. Keep in mind that they have no right to an opinion on what you’re doing with your life unless it affects your children, and vice versa.