Families Change
Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Separation

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When two people have been living together and they decide not to live together anymore, they are separated. When married parents separate, their marriage has not yet ended. They have to get a divorce to legally end a marriage. Parents who are not married can agree on how they will cooperate to take care of you after they separate.  Or they can ask the Vermont court to make a legal separation order. Part of the legal separation order will include a “Parental Rights and Responsibilities” Order, also known as a “parenting plan.” 

Parental Rights and Responsibilities are what the court calls custody.  A parental rights and responsibilities order will say how your parents are going to make decisions about taking care of you and when each parent spends time with you. If either parent doesn’t follow the court’s order, the court can take steps to enforce it.

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:
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:
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.