Families Change
Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Family Services

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Sometimes parents will meet with a Family Relations Counselor at the courthouse to get help making decisions.

A Family Relations Counselor is not a judge and cannot make decisions for your parents, but

  • they have been trained to act as a neutral third party; and
  • their job is to try to help parents work out their disagreements.

If your parents get help from Family Services (also sometimes called Family Relations), they will meet with a counselor once or several times, depending on how much help they need. You might also have to talk to the counselor. The counselor’s job is to help your parents make decisions that are best for you.

The counselor will try to help your parents reach an agreement that meets everyone's needs. If your parents come to an agreement, they will write up a document that says what they will do. That document will be part of their divorce papers.  

If they cannot work out an agreement, they will have to go to court and a judge will decide how their disagreements will be worked out.

Q & A

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

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.

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.