Families Change Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Sometimes people who are splitting up have to go to court to have a judge make decisions for them, because they aren't able to reach an agreement themselves.

Children and teens usually don't have to go to court. But sometimes the court will want to hear what you have to say. For example:

  • The court can order a professional to conduct an assessment into your needs and your parent’s ability to meet your needs. This can be done by a private assessor with the consent of both parents or by court order.
  • The court can interview you to determine your views and preferences about where and with whom you want to live.
  • The court can ask the Office of the Children’s Lawyer to gather information about your needs, wishes and interests either by having a clinician write a report for the court or having a lawyer represent you.

The court process can take a long time. Your parents may have to wait a long time for a court date, and they may have to go back to court several times, with a long wait each time. It won't happen overnight.

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.