How to tell your children you’re getting a divorce

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Family Law on Tuesday, May 7th, 2024

Making the decision to separate from your spouse can be absolutely heartbreaking. You are facing the prospect of breaking up your family and of moving forward into an uncertain future. Now, you might also be wondering how on Earth to tell your children you are splitting up without adding to their inevitable trauma.

However you approach this difficult conversation, you should bear in mind your children’s age and their ability to understand what is happening.

To support you at this time, our Family Law team has put together some do’s and don’ts that we hope will help you and your spouse have this challenging but necessary conversation with your children.


  1. If your separation has been acrimonious and there is conflict at home, then try to agree a time and arrangements to sit down and tell your children together
  2. If possible, plan and agree with your spouse what you will say
  3. Be honest within the limits posed by your children’s age and level of understanding
  4. Ensure that your children are in an environment where they feel safe and comfortable
  5. Reassure them that the divorce is absolutely not their fault and that you will always love and be there for them
  6. Explain where any pets will live and who will help look after them
  7. Have regular conversations with your children and encourage them to share their feelings and ask questions.


  1. Blame each other or argue in front of your children. Where your children are concerned, it’s important to maintain a united front
  2. Make promises you can’t keep (for example, that they will be able to live with whomever they want)
  3. Let your feelings about each other spill over
  4. Lie to your children – you may need to simplify some of the information and omit some details, but they need to know the truth about the changes that may happen
  5. Use your child to relay messages to the other parent
  6. Expect your children to understand everything at first – they’ll need time to process and digest what you are saying to them.

Getting the support you need

There are a wide range of charities and agencies who are there to support parents and children who are going through a divorce. For example, Relate offers relationship counselling to couples and families experiencing a wide range of issues, whilst Gingerbread offers free advice for single parents via phone or web chat.

When you are going through a divorce, it is also a good idea to seek professional legal advice to understand your rights as a parent before considering any custody arrangements with your ex-spouse. It will help to be equipped with this information, enabling you to better answer any questions your children may have about plans for the future and where they will live. 

Our Family Law team has spent decades working with divorcing couples to help them minimise acrimony and support their children through this difficult time. If you are considering a divorce and are looking for an empathetic ear, then our experts are here to help. Give us a call on 0330 221 8855 or email enquiries@attwaters.co.uk to talk about your situation.

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