Families Change Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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There are lots of people around you who can help you cope with your parents splitting up. Sometimes, just talking to a friend can help a lot, especially if his or her parents have also split up.

You can also talk to an adult you trust, like:

  • A relative (an aunt or uncle, or your grandmother or grandfather)
  • Your teacher
  • Your school counsellor
  • Someone at your place of worship
  • Your family doctor.

These people can help by:

  • Just listening
  • Helping you to put things in perspective
  • Suggesting things you can do to make things better
  • Connecting you with other people who can help.

Q & A

Q:
What is the difference between separation and divorce?
A:

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.

Q:
What will my friends say when they find out?
A:

Lots of teens worry about breaking the news to their friends. But separation and divorce are very common these days.

Good friends will be glad you've told them. You're still you, even though your family is changing.

Q:
Will I be able to spend time with both parents?
A:

In the vast majority of cases, children get to spend time with both parents. How much time you spend with each parent, and exactly how that will work, depends on your custody and access arrangements.

Q:
Who decides who I will live with?
A:

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.

Q:
Can I do anything to get my parents back together?
A:

Most parents split up only after trying very hard to save their relationship. Some teens hope and believe that if they try to be on their very best behaviour, their parents will get back together.

However, this plan isn't likely to work, since their parents' decision to split up had nothing to do with them. Their decision to separate or divorce is usually final.