When your parents live together, they are both responsible for taking care of you. When your parents stop living together, this might change.
For example, your parents need to agree on where you will live or when you will spend time with each parent. If they can’t agree, then the court will ask a Mediator to help them sort it out. If they still don’t agree, a court Magistrate or Judge may decide. The court can order “shared,” “divided,” or “primary” parental rights and responsibilities.
Parental rights and responsibilities are divided into legal rights and responsibilities and physical rights and responsibilities.
If one parent has primary rights and responsibilities, the other parent usually has “parent-child contact.” Parent-child contact is the schedule for spending time with your parents. There are lots of different ways to arrange how you spend time with your other parent. It might be for a few hours a week, a few days a week, just weekends, during school vacations or another schedule that fits your family. If the parent lives far away, the plan can also include keeping in touch in other ways, like phone calls, e-mails, letters and online meetings. The times may be very specific—spelling out hours and days for visits—or very general and flexible.
Here are some things that a Judge will consider when making decisions about “parental rights and responsibilities:”
Most of the time, the court will not want your parents to involve you in decisions about when you see each parent or how you are taken care of. This is because the court doesn’t want you to be put in the middle of these decisions or to have to choose one parent over the other.
Want to learn more about the law? VTLawHelp.org posts more detailed information about the legal aspects of Divorce, Separation, Custody, Visitation and Child Support.
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.
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.
There are lots of people around you who can help. Tell your parents, teacher, school counsellor, family doctor or another adult you trust.
If you aren't getting the help you think you need, keep asking until you get it.
There are many reasons why parents decide to split up. And with each couple, there might be one main reason, or a whole pile of reasons.
Parents usually try very hard to solve their problems before they take action. If you're not sure what your parents' reasons are for splitting up, you can always ask.