Families Change Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Separation

When two people have been living together and they decide not to live together anymore, they are separated.

When married parents separate, their marriage is not over. They have to get a divorce to legally end a marriage.

Parents who separate often make a separation agreement that states who their children are going to live with and how they are going to divide their property. A separation agreement is not the same as a divorce, but it is a contract, which means that both parents sign it and then have to do what they have agreed to. Some parents are not able to come to an agreement and make a separation agreement. They can go to a mediator, and use mediation to reach an agreement. Or they might have to go to court and have a judge make the decisions for them.

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:
My parents never married. Do they have to go through the same process that married parents do when they split up?
A:

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.

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.