Families Change Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Sometimes parents who are splitting up use a process called mediation to try to reach an agreement on the various decisions they have to make. The process is led by a mediator, who has been trained to act as a neutral third party in order to help people resolve their conflicts. One or both of your parents may also have a lawyer during the mediation process.

Unlike a judge, a mediator has no decision making power. If your parents use mediation, they will meet a few times with the mediator at their office. The mediator will try to help them reach an agreement that meets everyone's needs. They will not have to go to court unless they are still unable to reach an agreement.

Sometimes, teens can be involved in the mediation process. You may be present during the mediation, for some or all of the sessions. Or, you may be brought into the mediating room after an agreement has been reached, so that the mediator and your parents can tell you what has been decided and get your acceptance.

Q & A

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

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.

What is the difference between separation and divorce?

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.

Who decides who I will live with?

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.