Families Change Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

You are here

Decisions

When parents separate or divorce, they have to make a lot of decisions. First, they have to decide on custody and access. This includes who their kids will live with and how that will work, and who will make decisions for their kids.

For example:

  • If the kids live with one parent, when will they get to see the other parent? How often? And for how long?
  • If the kids live with both parents, will they stay with one parent during the week and the other during the weekend? Or will they spend one week with one parent and one week with the other?
  • Who will make decisions about education, religion, and medical issues?

Then parents have to decide how much money one parent has to give the other to help pay for the things their kids need. This is called child support.

After separation or divorce, one parent may be better off financially than the other because of the roles assumed during the marriage. For example, one parent may have given up their career to care for the kids. Sometimes one parent will have to give the other parent monthly payments for a period of time after the separation or divorce to compensate. This is called spousal support.

Parents also have to decide how they will divide all of their property (the things they own together). For example:

  • If they own a house, will they keep it, and who will keep it?
  • How will things like the furniture, cars, TV, computer, and pictures be divided?
  • How will they divide their money and any debts they may have?

Each parent may have a lawyer. The lawyer's job is to help them understand the laws on separation and divorce, and to help them do what they think is best for their kids. If parents can agree on the things they need to decide on, they can write this down in a separation agreement or parenting plan.

If parents can't agree on the things they need to decide on, they have a couple of options. They can go to a mediator, and use mediation to reach an agreement. Or they might have to go to court and have a judge make the decisions for them.

Q & A

Q:
What is the difference between separation and divorce?
A:

When two people have been living together and they decide not to live together anymore, they are separated. However, when married people separate, their marriage has not yet ended. They have to get a divorce to legally end a marriage. Common-law couples don't have to get a divorce, because there is no marriage to end.

Q:
Who decides who I will live with?
A:

Ideally, your parents will make the decisions together about who you will live with and how that will work. Your opinion should be taken into account.

If they can't decide themselves, they might go to a mediator for help in reaching an agreement. Or they might have to go to court and have a judge make the decisions for them.

Q:
My parents never married. Do they have to go through the same process that married parents do when they split up?
A:

Common-law parents — parents who chose to live together without getting married — don't have to get a divorce, because there is no marriage to end. But they do need to decide what will happen to their children and how they will divide their property.