Separated Parent Policy

A school that supports a child’s right to love both parents makes all the difference.

As a first line service for children, schools can find themselves placed in the middle of family conflict and often have to tread a fine line to avoid aligning with one parent at the expense of a child’s attachment bond with the other parent.

To help reduce conflict between parents for the long-term benefit of children and to support school staff, Right to Love UK has provided a free Separated Parent Policy template for schools to use.

Publishing a Separated Parent Policy on the school website helps parents find it easily and enables them to understand what schools can and cannot do. Schools who understand the importance of such a policy and have already got their own, may want to review it against the template.

The initial template was provided by a school happy to share best practice and takes into account government guidelines for schools on parental responsibility. In providing this version of the template Right to Love UK obtained legal advice from Valemus Law. If there is anything within the Separated Parent Policy template the school needs advice on or wants to change, it is the school’s responsibility to seek further legal advice or guidance from the Department of Education.

Why is it important to have a Separated Parent Policy?

Parental separation is difficult for parents and children. Parents can experience difficulty processing the loss of their adult relationship and loss of their relationship with their children. This can lead to difficulties in going from a united family structure to a functioning separated family structure.

Sometimes parents behave in protective ways to block interactions with the other parent and sometimes parents behave in ways that unnecessarily undermine their child’s relationship with their other parent. In either case the child is likely to experience emotional and possibly psychological difficulties. In severe cases where a parent is trying to undermine a relationship between the other parent and the child(ren), a child may experience an emotional cutoff where they completely reject a “good enough” parent and extended family members. If left un-checked it can hamper a child’s emotional and psychological development which will have a massive impact on their entire lives, the lives of family members, the wider community and future generations. It may also impact a child’s learning and behaviour at school. Our leaflet provides a brief overview of this issue for busy professionals and families.

NOTE: Schools are used to seeing a child’s obvious protest behaviours like shouting, hitting, causing disruption in class etc. when they have too much going on emotionally. It is less recognised that children who are doing well in school may still not be ok on the inside. Some children are only able to do well because they have shut off their own emotions and needs in order to please a caregiver. For those experiencing an emotional cut off they need to banish all thoughts of their rejected parent. They may adapt with compulsive caregiving/compliance strategies to cope – see DMM Model – Family Relations Institute.

The school will not fully understand the family history or dynamics and so can only be guided by the law and government guidelines for schools on parental responsibility. Having a Separated Parent Policy helps schools to:

  • communicate expectations to all those with parental responsibility
  • avoid aligning with one parent over another
  • provide information to help all those with parental responsibility to support their child as best they can and
  • support a child’s right to love and be loved by both parents.

School reports and pictures may be all some parents receive to know how their child is doing. For a child who only gets to have letters from a parent they no longer live with, deep down inside it makes them happy to know their parent is proud of what they are doing at school.

Some parents report that having a school that supports their child’s relationship makes them feel better and helps their child see that both parents are important.

Experiences with schools

The following are real life examples of parents interacting with schools that highlight how schools can make a difference in supporting those with parental responsibility. Right to Love UK has added their analysis to explain what was helpful and what may be problematic.

When I asked for tickets to my child’s school play the school said they were advised by my ex that there was a court order stopping me from going to school activities. I said this was not true. The Head asked me to provide a court order or letter from a solicitor. I spoke to Cafcass who rang the school to explain no such court order was in place, there were no safeguarding issues and my attendance would benefit my child. The school gave me a ticket for the play.

Analysis: Here the school had accepted what they had been told without asking for evidence. This caused distress to the parent, leading to feelings of resentment for the dishonesty displayed by the other parent and attempts to restrict their ability to be in their child’s life. Ultimately it led to increased parental conflict. The child in this family ended up having a full emotional cutoff.

I stopped receiving school reports and communications from the school. When I emailed to find out why, I was told my ex had submitted a form to have my contact details removed. The school hadn’t checked with me. I still have parental responsibility.

Analysis: The child in this story had already experienced an emotional cutoff. Judges only completely remove parental responsibility in the severest of circumstances. Unless parental responsibility has been removed or a specific issues order has been made curtailing what information the parent is allowed, the school should not have removed the parent’s contact details without asking for evidence. This caused the parent distress and loss of confidence in the school.

I’ve been in court for over 5 years because my ex doesn’t want me to see my kids. My ex made lots of false allegations. The school made it hard for me to be involved with kids education and the church that helps run the school funded my exes legal expenses.

A judge said the non-molestation order I had against me should not be in place. A psychologist’s report said the kids had been alienated from me. The kids are now in care. Our relationship is improving but there is a lot of work that needs to be done. I’m so angry this damage was allowed.

Analysis: This is an extreme case where the school and associated church were unwittingly aiding a parent in child psychological abuse. This led to anger in the parent being targeted for rejection, years with inappropriate support for the family and distress for the children who had emotionally cutoff from their parent being placed in care. Significant cost has been paid both financially and emotionally with more to follow in order to resolve this family dynamic. It is a key example of why schools should not align with one parent over another.

My ex didn’t consult me about what schools to apply for. They didn’t include my details on the application form. I got in touch with the school to ask for an update. They told me I wasn’t on record and asked me to submit ID and a birth certificate. They told me they wouldn’t be able to offer me a separate parent’s evening. I was so annoyed, I’m their parent but I’m being asked to prove it. I regularly get information from the school now.

Analysis: The school did the right thing asking for evidence of parental responsibility and adding the parent to their database so they can be kept informed. Improvement could be made to offer a parent evening treating parents equally as per government guidance.

I’ve never had any reports from my child’s secondary school. My ex told them that I was abusive and that they were the only parent with PR. I’ve argued for years with the school for reports, parents evenings, etc. but nothing.

Analysis: If there is no court order removing parental responsibility the parent should still be receiving information about their child’s education. This was very stressful for the parent not having their responsibility acknowledged and not having any information about their child’s progress.

My ex tried to make the school stop engaging with me. Said I shouldn’t have the reports or be on school grounds for parents evening. The school asked my ex to provide a court order but didn’t and complained.

They asked me for a copy which I showed them. The school refused my exes request. I really appreciated them sticking to the rules. Not long after the school sent a Separated Parent Policy to all parents via email.

Analysis: This school followed correct procedure and helped this parent maintain a relationship with their child.

I found out my 5 year old child had told the school they had been exposed to drugs but I had not been informed. I asked the school why they had not told me. They said that I was at the bottom of the contact list so it wasn’t their practice. It turned out I was fourth on the list after my ex and their parents. I asked the school to move me to second on this list and to be informed of anything relating to my child’s well being from then on.

Analysis: The school had used the information they were given by the resident parent but prioritising providing information to people without parental responsibility over parents that do does not help them fulfil their responsibility and neither does not keeping them informed of major events impacting on their child’s wellbeing.

The teacher told me my child was found talking to a picture of me. She had taken it to school to show “me” a piece of work she had done which had been put up on a board at school. She was telling “me” how well she had done. I was heartbroken.

Analysis: The child is clearly missing their parent and wants their parent to be proud of their work. The observation raises concerns about the child’s wellbeing so speaking to the designated safeguarding lead and getting pastoral care may be appropriate. Note, that when dealing with a parent who has managed to eradicate the other parent from the child’s life, making them aware of the child’s feelings may lead to consequences for the child. If staff are at all concerned about a child’s emotional or psychological wellbeing they should report the matter to social services as they would for any other form of serious abuse.


If you have any suggestions for further information that would be helpful for schools please feel free contact Right to Love UK.