Families Change Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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If your parents are splitting up, you might want to know about the laws on legal separation and divorce in Canada. This section explains the following things:

  • the difference between legal separation and divorce
  • what happens when common-law parents (parents who aren't married) split-up
  • what kinds of decisions parents have to make when they’re splitting up
  • two processes your parents may use to resolve their conflicts over these decisions — mediation and court
  • what the terms "custody” and “visiting rights  mean 

There is also a glossary of keywords.

Q & R

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.

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.

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.