During cytokinesis of monolayered epithelial tissues, co-ingression of both the dividing cell and neighbouring cell membranes leads to the formation of a 4-cell structure apposed to the midbody, which is subsequently resolved to form either a ‘daughter–daughter’ or ‘neighbour–neighbour’ interface. However, it remains unclear how the dividing cell disentangles from its neighbours while maintaining an intact epithelial barrier function. In this paper, Yohanns Bellaïche and colleagues (Wang et al., 2018) now analyse in detail the de novo formation of bicellular and tricellular septate junctions (TCJs) in dividing cells of the Drosophila dorsal thorax epithelium. Using time-lapse imaging, they observe that the 4-cell structure remains tightly associated with the midbody; the detachment of the first neighbour occurs only 2 hours after midbody formation, with the second neighbour detaching 20 minutes later. This coincides with the midbody moving basally and the concomitant de novo formation of TCJs between the two daughter cells and their neighbouring cells. The authors further show that the TCJ components Anakonda (Aka) and Gliotactin (Gli) are required in the dividing and the neighbouring cell, as their depletion impaired both midbody movement and disentanglement of the 4-cell structure. Together, these findings suggest that the expansion of the new TCJs drives the resolution of the intertwined cells and thus point to an unexpected role of TCJs in coordinating cytokinesis with the establishment of epithelial polarity during cell division.