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Negotiation tools and services

If there are no safety concerns, the cheapest and easiest way to make arrangements is to negotiate with the other parent. There are free tools and services that can help you.

Choose Negotiation tools and services if...

You both still communicate and agree on the majority of issues but may benefit from using a tool such as a parenting plan.


  • cheapest and quickest option
  • you and the other parent are in control
  • helps children continue family relationships
  • agreements are flexible


  • you’ll need a consent order to make agreement legally binding
  • process heavily relies on parent co-operation

Which tools and services to use

The needs of your children must come first when negotiating arrangements. The following are flexible, unless you make them into a consent order.

Flexible plans are useful if you and the other parent want to change the details as your children grow older and their needs change.

Parenting plan

A parenting plan is a written or online plan that you use to prepare, discuss and agree arrangements. It’s not legally binding but it can help you make plans that meet your children's needs.

Using a parenting plan:

  • helps you know what’s expected of you
  • confirms your agreements (for example, where your children will live)
  • works as a record for you to go back to

You can choose to use an online parenting plan or a plan you can print out. The printable copy is also available in Welsh (PDF file - 3.9Mb).

Negotiating tools

The Negotiations Cycle tool lets you break down your negotiations into 4 stages.

Gingerbread has an arrangements factsheet that includes tips on making negotiating work.

Letter templates

Child Law Advice has a useful letter template (PDF file - 234kb) if you prefer to negotiate by letter or email.

When negotiating may not be suitable

Child abuse or neglect

You shouldn't make arrangements with the other parent if you think they:

  • are abusing your children
  • are neglecting your children
  • have a drug or alcohol problem that’s affecting your children

Find out more about child abuse and neglect

Report child abuse if you have any concerns and tell your children about Childline so they can report any abuse themselves.

You can report a concern about a child online to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).

Domestic abuse

Negotiating with the other parent directly won’t be suitable if you think they pose a threat to you or your children’s safety.

Find out more about signs of domestic violence if you’re unsure whether you’re a victim.

Report domestic violence when it’s safe to do so and you think you’re a victim.

Negotiation resources

GOV.UK has information on arranging child maintenance yourself that includes a child maintenance calculator.

Separated Families also has a free online parenting plan.

The Parent Connection offers tips on how to communicate with your ex.

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