Families Change Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Custody and Visiting Rights

When your parents live together, they are both responsible for taking care of you. When your parents stop living together, they are usually both still responsible for you, but daily decisions might be made by the parent you live with most of the time..

Your parents might be able to agree on custody and visiting rights themselves. But if they can't agree, even with the help of a mediator, they'll have to go to court and have a judge decide.

If this happens, the judge who is making the decisions will consider things like these:

  • your age
  • what will give you the fewest changes to deal with
  • whether both of your parents healthy and responsible
  • the arrangements for your brothers and sisters
  • your needs
  • your opinion (The older you are, the more likely the judge will take your opinion into account.)

If one parent has sole custody and you live only with that parent, the other parent usually has visiting rights, which means that you can visit that parent. There are lots of different ways to arrange how you spend time with the parent who has visiting rights. Visits might be for a few hours every week, or for weekends or a few days every two weeks or month. If the parent with visiting rights lives far away, visits might include keeping in touch in other ways, like phone calls, e-mails or letters.

Visiting rights might be very specific — actually spelling out the specific hours and days for visits — or very general and flexible.

Q & R

Who decides who I will live with? Do I get a say?

Ideally, your parents will make the decisions together about who you’ll live with and how that will work.

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.

Whether your parents make the decisions about custody and visiting rights themselves, or with the help of a mediator or a judge, your opinion should be taken into account.

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 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’ll divide their property.

What is the difference between legal separation and divorce?

When two people who are married decide to split up, they need to get a divorce to legally end their marriage.

They can also decide to get a legal separation and divide up their property. They have to go to court for this, but this does not end the marriage. Divorce is the only way to end a marriage. To learn more about “legal separation” visit Éducaloi’s website.