The living arrangements for the children will need to be carefully considered when parents separate. In a lot of cases the parents are able to reach an agreement about what time the children will spend with each of them. This might not be easy but remember that although you have rights, more importantly, the children have a right to see their parents and to spend time with each of them. Where parents cannot agree matters then the court can assist. This can be by way of a child arrangements order (previously a residence order and/or a contact order). In some cases the child arrangements can be shared. A judge can appoint a welfare officer (known as a Cafcass officer) to prepare a report to assist the court in reaching a decision. What is most important is the welfare of the children and what is in their best interests. There are many books available to help discuss divorce and separation with your children. Have a look at our reading list [hyperlink].
Yes, the fact that you are not married can make a significant difference. There is no such thing as a ‘common law’ husband or wife. The legal rights and remedies might be limited to the family home and how this is owned. Where there are children, however, it might be possible to make an additional claim for financial provision for a child under Schedule 1 Children Act 1989. Child maintenance will also need to be considered.