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Don't Split Us Up

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Douglas: What's tae dae?
Donald: Och! Each maun be aye guid as ither. Syne, he'll hae tae keep uz baith.

A pair or group of siblings is threatened with separation by adoption, divorce, death, accident, popular beliefs, or some other disruption to their lives. In a contemporary setting, expect the Department of Child Disservices to get involved.

One can expect the Knight Templar Big Brother to go to extremes to prevent this. Compare I Will Find You and Solomon Divorce. This trope is also commonly associated with Promotion to Parent. Not to be confused with Never Split the Party.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Black Jack story The Two Jans is all about this. This being Black Jack, of course, they happen to be conjoined twins who share not only an entire body but also most of their head.
  • In the backstory of Chrono Crusade, Rosette constantly dragged her brother, Joshua, out to play in the forest near the orphanage where they lived because she was afraid that Father Remington would split them up by taking Joshua to the Magdalene Order and leave her behind. Joshua himself wasn't quite as bothered by the idea of having to split up with Rosette, because he wanted to learn how to control his healing powers. Additionally, his powers didn't heal himself—he was often sickly and was afraid of Rosette having to put her life on hold to take care of him.
  • The main character of Listen to me, girls. I am your father! adopts the three sisters because he doesn't want to see them split up.
  • The siblings Mei (sister) and Akira (brother) from Maze Megaburst Space who takes their desire not to be split up to quite a... unique solution.
  • In the backstory to Monster, the Lieberts only wanted to adopt Johan, but he insisted that they take his twin sister as well. They picked the wrong one.
  • Pokémon: The Series has a few examples over the years:
    • In Battle Frontier episode "On Cloud Arcanine", May and Drew both call off catching an Arcanine when they see it is taking care of three Growlithe pups.
    • In the Sun and Moon episode "First Catch in Alola, Ketchum-style!", Ash initially passes up Rowlet because it is part of a family of Pikipek. But its Toucannon surrogate parent sees that Rowlet likes Ash, and urges it to join him.
    • Similarly Ash gave up trying to catch Litten after seeing it caring for an elderly wild Stoutland. When Stoutland passes away however, Litten joins Ash's team.
  • The reason Mii from Popotan doesn't want to stop time-travelling when given the chance is because she wouldn't be able to live with her sisters that way. In the end, they still end up separating, but eventually reunite.
  • Seiya and his sister Seika in Saint Seiya, they were separated after Seiya was chosen to train to become a Saint. His main motivation after becoming one was to reunite with his sister who had gone missing afterwards.
  • The Quintessential Quintuplets: The last wish of the Nakanos' late mother was that they always should stick together no matter what. Shortly after their mother died, the quintuplets dreaded this trope. They didn't have confidence that their grandfather could take care of them due of his age. Fortunately, one of their mother's former students sympathized with them and decided to take them all in to provide them shelter and an opportunity to avert this trope. The second instance was during their first year at high school prior to the start of the series where Yotsuba flunked her exams and was on the verge of expulsion because of her poor balance between academic and extracurricular activities that stems from her festering insecurities over her sisters. The rest of her sisters pretended to have cheated in their own exams despite having passed, to ensure that they would all transfer schools so Yotsuba wouldn't be alone.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Mokuba Kaiba recounts how everyone wanted to adopt his brother Seto Kaiba since he was a genius, but he refused to go without him. Katsuya Jonouchi / Joey Wheeler and Shizuka Kawai / Serenity Wheeler also attempt this in their backstory but are unsuccessful.

    Comic Books 
  • One late '80s Batman story featured this as part of a Vignette Episode, with Batman finding two orphan children living out on the streets because they refused to let social services split them up into sex-segregated foster homes.
  • In the "Quantum Quest" story arc of Captain Atom, it is revealed that Cap's sister didn't want social services to discover that their mother was an abusive, neglectful drunk because she was afraid that if she and Nate were put in foster care, they would be separated. So even though she was only nine years old, she had to take care of both of them. It Got Worse.
  • Relative Heroes: The original reason the siblings decided to avoid authorities, they knew they wouldn't be able to stay together especially since those with powers are more work for a potential new family so they're not going to take in three of them.

    Fan Works 
  • In Lost Nations, Matthew was adopted by an elderly Canadian couple in spite of his and his brother Alfred's pleading to not be separated. Even after being reunited, a grown Alfred still suffers nightmares about it and tends to cling to his twin.
  • This happens twice in The Outside. In chapter 7, Satsuki clings to Ryuuko to keep social services form taking her and, twenty-two chapters later, because she grew attached to them, Ryuuko refuses to leave the foster home without Shiro and Nui, so Ragyo signs paperwork to take them in.
  • In Percy Take the Wheel, this is the main reason why Percy has been promoted to parent — Bill and Charlie need to financially help the family with their jobs overseas, and no relative is willing to take in all five of the younger siblings. Downplayed compared to some examples, as it's acknowledged that they'd all still be in one family and able to visit each other, but everyone's so traumatized by the loss of their parents that Percy still thinks being split up is a bad idea.
  • In these ruined hands of mine (they seek out you, always you), a young Savage Opress was so traumatized when his baby sibling Maul was taken away to be sold he decided to grab his other baby brother Feral to flee their home planet. A Jedi stumbles upon them and, seeing their huge potential in the Force, brings them to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant in which a well-meaning caretaker accidentally freaks the older boy by telling him to let go of his attachment to Feral. He almost abducted his sibling to run again when Feemor surprised them and decided to become their go-to Parental Substitute.
  • Played with in the Vocaloid fanfiction Angels of Light — Meiko and Kaito had only intended to adopt a boy, since they already had their hands full with Miku and Yuki, so when they meet Rin and Len they planned on only adopting him. When he and Rin realize this means they'll have to be separated they start crying. It seems sad at first... but then Len, eyes perfectly dry, suddenly starts asking Meiko to bring Rin home with them in a way that doesn't seem normal at all, and Rin follows up by doing the same to Kaito. It isn't much of a surprise to the audience at this point, given what Rin and Len are implied to be throughout the fic.

    Films — Animated 
  • In the Captain Underpants film, the threat of being split up and placed in separate classes at school drives desperate best friends George and Harold to hypnotize their principal, Mr. Krupp.
  • Averted in Despicable Me where the junior novelization says that the three girls "aren't technically sisters but they spend all their time together."
  • Lilo & Stitch, where Social Services threatens to take Lilo away from older sister and guardian Nani.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • American History X: Implied Trope. When Derek is arrested after the curb-stomping murder, he and Danny are forcefully separated by police officers as Derek is dragged off to jail. They both look heartbroken; Derek is the only male role figure Danny had left at this point.
  • In Armored, this is the primary motivation for Ty to join his colleagues in robbing their own armored transport company. After his parents died he was left alone to raise his younger brother, but is struggling to make ends meet. He's in danger of losing their childhood home due to unpaid bills, and a social worker pays a visit to inform him that his brother will be placed in foster care if he can't provide for him, leading to this response.
  • The kids were worried about being split up due to evacuation in Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
  • The Color Purple (1985): Nettie and Celie.
    Nothing but death can keep me from it!—Nettie, promising to write.
  • Conviction (2010) (based on a true story) had one of these events between the main characters during a flashback.
  • The two protagonists of Enter the Void are being separated in childhood after their parents died in a car crash and the grandparents grew too old for caretaking. There is a tearjerker scene when Linda cries as her foster parents usher her away from her brother.
  • Gracie's Choice features a young Kristen Bell as a teenager trying to raise her four younger half-siblings after their mother is sent to jail. When the authorities finally catch on, there is a heart-wrenching scene where the boys and girls are split up and sent to different homes. Fortunately, Gracie later gets custody and keeps the family together.
  • The cenobite from Hellraiser: Bloodline which turned out to be supernaturally conjoined identical twins; how much of it was their choice is arguable.

  • Nanny McPhee:
    • Lady Adelaide Stitch, the Brown children's Great-Aunt, "offers" to "ease [Cedric's] financial burden" by taking one of his daughters off of him (since she can't bear the idea of having a son), adopting and raising her as a member of the Stitch family. After a narrow scrape, the Brown children have to decide who must go with their Great-Aunt. They settle on Evangeline, the scullery maid, passing her off as their sister, with the help of Nanny McPhee.
    • One of the reasons why Cedric Brown is so eager to re-marry, despite the protestations of his children, is that the allowance their Great-Aunt Adelaide supports them with ends if he does not re-marry at the end of the month. Since he can't afford to provide for them on his own, when the allowance ends, the house will be repossessed, Cedric will go to debtor's prison, the older children to the workhouse, and the younger children will be placed into foster care, splitting them up for good, as there's no guarantee that any of them will be allowed to stay together. This fear is realised when the children successfully foil his attempt at proposing to Selma Quickly, and Cedric would not have time to find someone else to marry before the month is up.

  • On Our Own is about four children, Mitch, Kate, Travis, and Lori. After being abandoned by their father and with the death of their mother they are forced to move into a children's home. Feared they will have to be separated, they escape and run away.
  • This drives much of the plot of Our Mother's House, the mother herself has died and her seven children are determined to keep up the fiction otherwise, knowing they will be split up once Children's Services find out the truth. Their ruse works, at least for a time, until their worthless father returns.
  • In both The Parent Trap (1961) and The Parent Trap (1998) the girls don't want to be separated once they've found each other. This is a variation since the girls had already been split up before the movie began, and now they're trying to make sure they don't get separated again.
  • Shoeshine: Street Urchins Pasquale and Giuseppe aren't brothers, but they might as well be, as they struggle to survive on the streets of Rome. They beg to be put in the same cell when they're unjustly thrown in jail for a robbery they didn't commit. They're put in different cells, and tragedy ensues.
  • In the silent film Sparrows, a baby from a rich household is kidnapped for ransom and stashed in an Orphanage of Fear. When the baby is found, his rich father invites the oldest kid from the orphanage, teenaged Molly (Mary Pickford) to work for him as the boy's nanny. She insists that all ten of the kids from the orphanage live with them, and the father agrees.

  • In the American Girl Samantha books, when Nellie's parents die, Samantha helps her and her siblings run away from the orphanage and smuggles them into her (Samantha's) attic so that they'll be able to stay together. The problem is solved when Samantha's aunt and uncle adopt them.
    • Also happens with Addy's family in her first book, since they're slaves and don't have a say in their own fate. Sadly, this one doesn't end as well; though the family makes a plan to escape, Addy's father and brother are sold off before they can put it into action. Furthermore, because Addy and her mother are now escaping alone, they have to leave Addy's baby sister behind with elderly family members because they no longer have enough people to share the burden of carrying her and keeping her quiet. Incredibly, they all survive the war, but the family isn't fully reunited until the final book.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: After Myne reforms the temple's orphanage, plans are made to export its model to other towns. In the first town that gets an expansion of the temple orphanage, local orphans are offered the choice between moving to the new orphanage or staying in the current set-up for them. The four who accept to move from the get-go are two pairs of siblings in which one half was about to be sold off by their caretaker.
  • One of The Baby-Sitters Club mystery specials was based around the girls undertaking work experience at a local shopping mall. They eventually discover that mysterious thefts from the mall were committed by three children, who have been secretly living there since their mother went into hospital — they are afraid of being separated by the local authorities.
  • This is a concern for The Boxcar Children. They assume when their parents die that they'll either be split up or adopted by the grandfather their parents hate and they believe is abusive. By the end of the first book, they're all adopted by the grandfather who they find out is actually quite nice.
  • Played with in A Brother's Price: Jerin hopes he will be swapped for the brother of another family, (and not for the eponymous brother's price in money) so that he can often visit his siblings. His toddler sisters cry when they hear he is going to leave and get married. Princess Ren has a different kind of problem: Splitting the family into two groups of sisters (as has been done in the past) is not an option, as it caused a succession war back then. So, if she wants to marry, she has to get all her sisters to agree on the same husband. Even Trini, who is reluctant to marry again after the abusive late husband, and Halley, who has been missing for months.
  • C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia: In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when Lord Bern buys Caspian, Lucy begs him not to split up the group, but he tells her he can't afford them all.
  • Forbidden: Staying together is the most important thing in the world to the five Whitely siblings. Five years ago, their father abandoned them, and their mother steadily became more and more neglectful. The eldest two were promoted to parents for the younger three, and have been working ever since then to keep the family off the radar of social services, who would split them up.
  • The Blackthorn siblings in The Dark Artifices. With their parents dead, their uncle Arthur insane from dealing with faeries, their eldest sister Helen in exile and their eldest brother Mark forced to join the Wild Hunt, Julian, the eldest of the remaining siblings, promotes himself to parent out of a fear that the Clave will split them all up and send them to different Institutes if they knew. Fortunately he has help in the form of his childhood friend Emma and their tutor Diana. Nonetheless, his attempts to keep his family together drive most of his more ruthless actions.
  • Mentioned in several novels by Jacqueline Wilson:
    • The Illustrated Mum is about Star and Dolphin's mother Marigold, who suffers from bipolar disorder. Despite Marigold's increasing inability to take care of her children, Star is very careful to avoid attracting attention from anyone because she believes that social services would separate her and Dolphin. The trope is played with when both girls are taken into care (separately) and social services find a way to place them in the same foster home so they can be together.
    • In Lily Alone, a young girl and her toddler-aged siblings are left alone at home when their mother goes on holiday and the appointed babysitter does not show up. The heroine fears that they will be taken into care and separated, so decides to hide out in the woods with the children so that Social Services can't check up on them. Ultimately, they are taken into care and separated—but it's shown that the children all still have contact with each other and that their mother will have a fair chance of getting custody back when she's released from prison for neglect.
    • In Lola Rose by the same author, Lola is forced to take care of her younger brother alone while their mother goes into hospital for breast cancer surgery—she is afraid to let anyone find out in case she and her brother are taken into care and separated. She eventually gets help when she is able to trace their aunt.
  • Lotte and Luise in Erich Kästner's Lottie and Lisa were too young to do this the first time they were separated, but once they are reunited and find out about each other, it's their greatest wish to stay together as a family.
  • In the Mahabharata, this is how Draupadi ends up agreeing to marry all five of the Pandavas. Arjuna won her hand in an Engagement Challenge, and was told by his mother to share what he'd brought home. Krishna explains that it's because Draupadi wished in her past life for a practically-perfect man, and all the qualities she wanted were really difficult to squeeze into just one person. She consults with the sage Vyasa, and asks him what to do. Vyasa tells her she basically has three options: she can marry only Arjuna, but he'll eventually come to resent her for separating him from his family. She can reject the marriage, but end up being viewed as Defiled Forever and Dying Alone. Or, she can Take a Third Option and marry them all. (Which was unusual, and kind of scandalous, but not forbidden, and she is not the first or only woman in the narrative to have multiple husbands.) Krishna suggests that the best course of action is to marry all five of them, and she agrees to do so.
  • Joan Lowery Nixon's The Orphan Train Adventures books are about six siblings sent to Missouri by their mother and divided between four families. They all eventually end up in happy families, with only one child going to live with their mother when she moves out west and remarries.
  • In Passage to Zarahemla, after their mother's death, Kerra and Brock are to be separated, as the foster family that will take Brock doesn't have room for 2. So Kerra packs her stuff, Brock packs his, and they set off to Utah to find their missing dad's family.
  • The Railway Series had Scottish twins Donald and Douglas. They worked together for many years before coming to Sodor. Only Donald was bought for the NWR, and Douglas was bound for the scrapheap. Dialogue implies the former smuggled the latter to Sodor to save him.
  • This comes up in the backstory of two "half-blood" siblings in The Sharing Knife: Horizon. The camp of their estranged Lakewalker father was willing to take the two motherless adolescents in if they demonstrated usable levels of Groundsense. Indigo could not, so his elder sister Calla did not.
    Everyone else had left us, one way or the other. I wasn't going to do that to him, not again.
  • Star Wars Legends: Galaxy of Fear takes place six months after Tash and Zak Arranda lost their families on Alderaan. Tash, being the more responsible sibling, develops separation anxiety and a fear of abandonment. She swore to herself that she would never lose anyone else like that, and whenever she's apart from her brother for too long she starts to worry that something's happened to him—with good reason! Horrible things are constantly happening to both of them! She reacts very negatively to even suggestions of a more permanent parting.
  • Henri and Clementa Tod in The Story Of Henri Tod. They were Jewish children in World War II and the resistance told them that they had to be sheltered separately. In this case, they were split up. This gives Henri Tod a Failure Knight mentality that drives the plot.
  • One of the reasons Prosper and Bo are on the run from their aunt in The Thief Lord is that she only wanted Bo and was planning to send Prosper Off to Boarding School.
  • It's only part of an experiment, but in The Thirteenth Tale Adeline and Emmeline react very badly to being separated. Adeline even goes into a catatonic state.
  • In This Is Not a Werewolf Story, Raul and his mother have both been Shapeshifter Mode Locked as wolves and then captured by the local park ranger, who thankfully refuses to let any zoo or wildlife reserve take one without the other. Which makes sense, given that the ranger is Raul's father. He doesn't know that the wolves are his missing loved ones, but the thought of breaking up a family is obviously a big deal to him.
  • In Homecoming, the first book of The Tillerman Family Series by Cynthia Voigt, four kids are abandoned by their mentally ill mother in a parking lot. The oldest girl leads them on foot to a cousin's house in the next state, where they're threatened with the prospect of one of them being put into foster care and another into institutional special ed. They go on for several more states to find their grandmother, who takes them all in.
  • Tortall Universe: In the Trickster's Duet, which is set in a slave-holding country, the Balitang family promises not to do this to any families when they're forced by the royal family to sell off most of their slaves and other property to prove they're not thinking rebellious thoughts.
  • This kicks off one of the subplots in Uncle Tom's Cabin when the slaveowner's wife is forced to sell the child of her maid. The maid, upon catching wind of this plan, promptly takes her baby and flees to Canada.
  • In Warrior Cats:
    • In the Super Edition Moth Flight's Vision, Moth Flight realizes that she cannot raise kits while being a medicine cat, so she gives up her four kits - one to each of the other Clans.
    • In the sixth series, A Vision of Shadows, Alderpaw and Needlepaw find two orphaned/abandoned kits that they name Violetkit and Twigkit. When they return to the Clans, the kits foster in ThunderClan for a while, but ultimately it is decided that Violetkit will be raised in Needlepaw's Clan, ShadowClan since she had an equal share in finding them and the kits are believed to be important, part of a prophecy. Alderpaw considers it cruel to split them up and the kits are heartbroken, meeting in secret on occasion as they grow.
  • This trope drives the plot of "Where the Lilies Bloom" by Bill and Vera Cleaver. The Luther children, ranging in age from preschooler to late teens, had lost their mother before the story opens. Their father is also terminally ill. When he too dies, the children believe that the government will split them up into separate homes if they find out. So they do everything they can do to carry on by themselves and pretend they still have their father.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Birds of a Feather Sharon and Tracey find out that they were both adopted, their parents were only going to adopt one child but decided it would be wrong to split up the sisters.
  • Bonanza: Toward the end of Season 14, the episode "The Sound of Sadness" saw a dirt farmer (Jack Albertson, of Chico and the Man fame) make an ultimately successful attempt to adopt two orphaned brothers. Before the adoption takes place, the requisite drama sees numerous families want to adopt the older, stronger of the two boys, but not the younger one, a tiny boy who has multiple disabilities, including muteness. Griff King (Tim Matheson in an early TV role) played an influential role in swaying the hard-nosed adoption director's initial decision to split the boys up.
  • An early Bones episode involves two brothers in the foster system who worry about getting split up.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one subplot was how Buffy was trying to make sure that Dawn didn't get taken away from her. Also, technically they weren't family, but Willow and Tara kept a robot-Buffy to hide the fact that Buffy had died in order to keep Dawn with them.
  • In Family Affair, Cissy, Jody and Buffy are initially all separated and sent to live with different relatives after their parents die. Uncle Bill initially takes in only Buffy, and when Jody and Cissy are later sent to him too, he's intimidated at first and almost sends Cissy away again. But in the end he decides that all three siblings will stay together with him, which they do for the rest of the series.
  • When River was shipped off to the Academy in the backstory of Firefly, Simon Tam went to extreme lengths to save her after decoding her letters and discovering that she was being put through hell in there, leaving the life of a trauma surgeon in the Core behind and becoming an outlaw.
  • In the Ghost Whisperer episode "Home But Not Alone", Ned's new love interest and her siblings have been hiding their mother's death at her pre-and-posthumous wishes from the public so they won't be put in foster care and separated.
  • An episode of Life has a pair of siblings living in a mall where a murder was committed because they're afraid that if they go into the foster system they'll be split up. Dani finds their aunt who adopts them.
  • Little House on the Prairie: At least two episodes:
    • "Remember Me," a two-parter from midway through the second season. The Sanderson children are faced with separation when a family wants to adopt the boys as farmhands, while Harriet's wealthy cousin wishes to adopt little Alicia. At the last minute, Mr. Edwards and Grace Snider marry and adopt all three.
    • "A Silent Cry," from early in Season 7, a rewrite of the Bonanza episode described above. Michael Landon's script was adapted for the show simply by crossing out names and replacing them with newer ones, and slight changes to the dialogue. Houston (Dub Taylor, playing the cantankerous caretaker of the Blind School) and Adam Kendall play the central roles here.
  • When the Fantasia split up in Maddigan's Quest episode "Plague", Timon and Eden insist on staying behind with their infected baby sister, even when Garland reminds them that by doing so, they're threatening the entirety of their home town.
  • The real-world versions of Hansel and Gretel in Once Upon a Time are fighting to stay together after their mother's death. Emma has to find their father and convince him to take them before Regina makes her take the kids to Boston to be put in foster care.
  • There was also a television series called On Our Own, in which the eldest brother, not yet of legal age, had to crossdress and pose as an older relative so that he and his siblings wouldn't be separated.
  • This is the basic premise of Party of Five, with the oldest of the five siblings becoming their guardian to avoid seeing them split up in foster care.
  • One episode of Silent Witness was based around a social worker dealing with three child protection cases: one of which involves two young girls taken into care after suspected abuse by their stepfather. When their older brother finds out about this after his release from juvenile detention, he begins taking increasingly desperate steps to reunite the family.

    Video Games 
  • In Life Is Strange 2, this is one of several reasons why Sean doesn't want to go to the police, as even in a best-case scenario, he and his brother Daniel would most likely be separated.
  • After both of Yozakura's parents died in Senran Kagura, she tried to convince her relatives that she can look after her eleven siblings. Unfortunately, being only nine at the time, no one took her seriously and they were separated. The reason why she became a shinobi was to prove that she is strong enough to support her whole family.
  • The Newson family that come with The Sims 2 Apartment Life are a group of six minors (two teenagers, two children, and two toddlers) who, with the exception of the toddlers, are not genetic relatives but were all adopted into the same family. When their adoptive parents died they chose to stick together rather than be separated and re-adopted. The family is particularly notable as it's the only pre-made household in the entire game series to feature no Sims older than teenagers. The games usually require at least one Young Adult or older sim be part of any player-made families making the Newsons even more notable.
  • Suikoden IV: This plays a critical role in Akaghi and Mizuki's Backstory: after their clan was conquered, they were going to be sold as slaves. When Mizuki was about to be sold without him, however, Akaghi made a huge scene, attracting Mister Ramada's attention. Ramada went on to buy and employ the pair, earning their gratitude.

  • Kill la Kill AU has a variant in that Soichiro didn't want to do this because of what had happened six years before that comic and Nui stated if Ryuuko was going to be sent Honnoji Academy, then they all may as well go. In the same comic, Ryuuko didn't take the news well either.

    Western Animation 
  • An episode of Alvin and the Chipmunks did this with the Chippettes. The girls stayed with the boys and Dave for a few days while a social worker tried to find a foster home for them, and they got along horribly with the boys. It wasn't until the social worker said that the only option was to split up the girls (since, as she explains, many people can't afford to take in siblings together and can only adopt one,) that they start to get along. All three girls are later put under the care of kind Miss Miller, who does live quite near Dave and the boys, and is quite willing to take in all three.
  • Amphibia: The reason why Marcy Wu purposefully stranded herself and her friends in Amphibia. On Anne's birthday, Marcy learned her family were going to move away because her father had gotten a new job out of state. Out of desperation, she pointed them in the direction of the Calamity Box as a birthday present and joined Sasha in encouraging Anne to steal it. Marcy wasn't sure it would even work, but it did, taking them to a place she believed they would never be separated. She tries to excuse her actions by pointing out the good times they had in Amphibia, despite the fact that she essentially tore her two best friends from their lives, but neither Anne nor Sasha buy it. When she's stabbed by Andrias, Marcy uses the last of her strength to apologize for everything.
  • An Animaniacs episode spoofs this when Wakko eats too many meatballs and Death comes to drag him away.
    Yakko: Oh, pleeeeaase don't separate us, Mr. Death! We love each other! We're a family! A set! Like Civil War chess pieces from the Franklin Mint!
  • One time Arthur and DW's parents were arguing and Arthur imagined what would happen if they split up and neither parent wanted to take them — they'd have to live in an orphanage.
    Arthur: Please, sir, may I have some 'Ore?
    Mr Ratburn (as Mr. Bumble): 'ave some 'ore? 'ave some 'ore? (puts a rowboat oar in Arthur's bowl) that's some oar! I'm hysterical! I should get paid more.
    Later quote Arthur: "We've got to avoid getting sent to an orphanage at all costs. Especially one that's set in the 1800s."
  • Bob's Burgers: In "Carpe Museum", when Mr. Frond is assigning the students buddies for a field trip, he attempts to separate Andy and Ollie, which results in a meltdown from both of them until Mr. Frond hastily rewrites the buddy list to avoid catastrophe.
  • Les Sisters: A variant is used so the trope can be Played for Laughs. Wendy and Marine's parents threaten to send them to separate summer camps if they misbehave, and since they don't want to be separated, they decide to camp out in the forest until their parents calm down.
  • Pound Puppies (2010): "Quintuplets". A group of pups are determined to stay together and want to be adopted all together. When the Pound Puppies have a tough time trying to find them an owner and discuss splitting up the siblings, the puppies decide to run away from the pound to stay together. In the end, Lucky convinces them to return to the pound but works to find an owner for them. Eventually the puppies end up getting adopted by a family who has a set of quintuplets of their own.
  • In the Recess episode "The Biggest Trouble Ever" the gang accidentally destroys a statue and is almost sent off to separate schools as punishment. Even Principal Prickly and Miss Finster thought this was going too far.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds" the family decide to get rid of the 25 puppies. When Lisa sees how they don't like to be broken up, Marge points out that she can't see anyone buying all of them. Mr. Burns is willing and plans to make a tuxedo out of them. He eventually decides not to kill them and raises 25 champions at the dog track.
      Announcer: 25 dogs, 25 world champions which so far have earned their owner over ten million dollars. I'll bet whoever gave him those dogs is kicking themselves now.
    • Also played for laughs in "A Test Before Trying", where Sherri and Terri are told they'll be sent to separate schools. They bemoan how they've never been separated and immediately begin to wither as they step away from each other.

    Real Life 
  • In 1943 German WVHA (Concentration Camp Directorate) personnel began handling large numbers of Romani for the first time, whereupon they discovered that Roma families reacted violently to the separation of the members useful as slaves (for rental to German companies) from those who were not. Consequently, they wrote off those potential slaves and dispatched the entire families to the Auschwitz-II/Birkenau subcamp for extermination.
  • In his history of Nile exploration, Alan Moorehead says that some Arab slavers in the region would go out of their way to avoid doing this. If so then Even Evil Has Standards. Averted, of course, in American slavery. Families were split up all the time, often deliberately since uprisings became less common if individual slaves cared more about themselves than their fellow slaves. In fact, "'Til death or distance do you part" was common in marriage vows at the time.
  • By comparison the Janisary Tax or Blood Tax, which was sort of an Ottoman version of The Academy, on a massive scale was explicitly designed to do this. The point was to prepare youths from conquered countries as bureaucrats and soldiers and it was felt necessary to separate them from connections.
    • It's called the devshirme, and it wasn't so much about 'conquered' countries as the fact that it was against shari'a to enslave Muslims, so they gathered their military slaves from the populous Christian provinces and then converted them. Lots of people who made it up the ranks knew perfectly well who their families were and did things to help them out, but the system didn't really break down until the devshirme stopped being collected and the Janissaries became hereditary and, promptly, corrupt as hell.
      • The Ottoman elites were Turks, which in those days still evoked 'having their origin in the steppes of Eurasia,' and there was an ethos against 'awlad al-Arab' being involved in military ventures. Fighting — especially command — was an ethnically defined employment. Caucasians, Georgians, Circassians, Kipchaks — but not Arabs.
      • People certainly really didn't want to give their kids up, which is why they called it the blood tax. In any case the tax was designed not to tap anyone or anywhere flat, so siblings would not tend to be together.
      • There's one memorable case of an Ottoman governor who'd been trained in the palace school after being taken in devshirme and his full brother, the Orthodox Christian bishop of a neighboring district. They had pretty good relations.
  • Part of the premise of Saving Private Ryan is based on Army policy changes that happened when the five Sullivan brothers were killed in action during the sinking of the USS Juneau.
    • This led to the Army creating the Sole Survivor Policy, designed to protect members of a family from the draft or from combat duty if they have already lost family members in military service, passed in 1948. But during the closing years of World War II, there would be instances where sole survivors were excused from active service. Most notably with Fritz Niland, the character whom the eponymous James Francis Ryan is based on.
    • There's a similar policy in the British military. In World War I and earlier conflicts, the British Army often mustered "Pals battalions": all the young men in a single town or Close-Knit Community would enlist together, and the army would form a platoon or unit consisting entirely of young men from a single community who had known each other their entire lives. This tradition was stopped following the disastrous Battle of the Somme in World War One, because of the devastating effect on the community back home when such a unit sustained heavy casualties. Men who enlist together (whether brothers or merely friends) are now nearly always assigned to different units.
      • The former custom arose from the army evolving from militias raised and trained by the local nobility/gentry; particularly in Scotland, where clan affiliation was important.
  • There is always a risk of this happening when parents are deemed unsuitable and children are sent to foster care.
    • Also sometimes happens in full-on adoption, not just foster care. Many social workers and adoption agencies will try to keep siblings together, but many families looking to adopt are only looking for one child, either for financial reasons or simply because it's easier to care for one child than two or more.
    • Additionally, sometimes children's other needs can be best met by adopters if they are split up. For example, if an older child has been used to stepping into the role of parent for their younger siblings, sometimes the only way to ensure they have a childhood is for them to be adopted separately.
  • This is the generally accepted rule in custody cases today in most modern systems of family law; keeping siblings together is generally presumed to be in the best interests of the children, and that is the standard the courts apply. Historically, this wasn't the case; in the common-law countries in the 19th century, children were presumed to need a parental role model of the same sex, so sons of divorced parents were sent to live with their fathers while daughters were sent to their mothers, with the exception of children in their "tender years" (anywhere from under seven to under twelve depending on time and place), who were deemed to "naturally" need the care of their mothers.
  • Kurt Vonnegut adopted three of his sister's children after they were orphaned. He states they had only two requests - to not be divided, and to keep the dogs. He acceded to both.