Families Change Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Key Words

Access The time kids spend with the parent who does not have custody. Access can also include a parent's right to receive information about the children's health, education and welfare.
Child Support Money that one parent gives the other parent to help pay for the things that their children need.
Common-Iaw When two people live together as a couple without getting married.
Divorce A legal action two people take to end their marriage.
Joint Custody Joint custody can mean a number of different arrangements, including one in which the children live part of the time with one parent and part of the time with the other parent, but both parents help to make decisions about their children's lives.
Marriage A formal agreement that legally recognizes two people in a relationship as a couple.
Mediation A process for resolving conflicts between people, using a mediator to find a solution that meets everyone's needs. A mediator can’t force a decision on the parties, but can make suggestions and help them work towards a solution.
Mediator A person who has been specially trained to act as a neutral third party in helping people resolve conflicts. They don’t take sides.
Separation When someone in a marriage or common law relationship informs the other person that their relationship is over. This is often the point when partners stop living together.
Sole Custody When only one parent takes care of the children and makes decisions about their lives. This includes decisions about religion, education, and medical issues.
Separation Agreement A contract between two people who have separated, stating, among other things, where their children will live and how they will divide their property.

Q & A

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.

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.