Unless specified, this information relates only to England and Wales. If you live in Scotland, go to Parenting across Scotland for information and advice. If you live in Northern Ireland, go to NI direct.

It is not always necessary to involve a solicitor or go to court if you are separating or separated. Try to reach agreement on plans for your children, living arrangements and money between yourselves, or with help from a mediator or other type of dispute resolution service. If you agree on these things, you won’t have to go to a court hearing and may be able to do the paperwork yourself without a solicitor.

If you need help understanding your rights or parental responsibilities you can ask a solicitor about where you stand. You can do this at any stage – when you are thinking of separating or have separated; during discussions; after you have reached an agreement together or while you are trying mediation.

Solicitors can help you understand your own legal position and help you and your ex partner to reach an agreement without going to court. They can help you come up with a legal document if there are things that you want to rely on for the future – like what to do with the house or pension. A solicitor can write letters for you and negotiate an agreement with your ex or their solicitor if they have one. It all depends on the individual circumstances of your case.

If you decide to use a solicitor to help take your case to court, your solicitor must give you information about family mediation and and refer you to a mediation service to find out more about it. (There are some special circumstances when this doesn’t apply which your solicitor can explain).

If you end up deciding that you do need to go through the court process , you can choose to get legal advice and support from a solicitor or barrister. You can also represent yourself in court as a ‘litigant in person’ without using a solicitor. For more information about this see ‘Will I have to go to court?’.

  • you might be able to reach agreement through mediation without having to go to court.
  • that a mediator or solicitor can explain your options which will help you decide whether you really need to go to court
  • how much going to court might cost – check if you qualify for legal aid;
  • you can ask for legal advice at any stage in the process, and legal aid to pay for this is available for some family matters (for example, if domestic violence is involved of if you are in a forced marriage);
  • if you do not qualify for legal aid, you may be able to find a local solicitor who offers fixed fee packages;
  • that you can get free representation-find the nearest Citzens Advice Bureau near you;
  • that a court case could drag out for a long time;

You can find lists of specialists, for example, solicitors on specialist panels for children law or family law and solicitor mediators at:

Where can I go next?