Families Change
Kids Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Custody and Visitation

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Jeremy: When your parents live together, they are both responsible for taking care of you. When your parents stop living together, this might change.

One parent might have sole parental rights and responsibilities (custody)When only one parent takes care of the kids and makes decisions about their lives of you. This means you live with one parent, who takes care of you every day. That parent makes important decisions about things in your life, like where you will go to school.

Or both parents might share parental rights and responsibilities. This is called joint or shared custodyWhen both parents help to make decisions about their kids’ lives . You might live part of the time with one parent and part of the time with the other. Or you may live mostly with one parent—but both parents help make decisions about things in your life.

If one parent has sole parental rights and responsibilities, the other parent usually has parent-child contact (sometimes called visitation). This is the time you spend with your other parent. There are lots of different ways to arrange how you spend time with that parent.

Your parents might be able to agree on parental rights and responsibilities and parent-child contact themselves. But if they can’t agree, even with the help of a mediatorA person who does mediation, and helps people agree about things, a judgeA person who knows a lot about the law, makes decisions for people, and is in charge of a court will have to make the decisions.

The judge will think about things like:

  • What will help you to grow and learn?
  • Are both of your parents healthy and responsible?
  • What are your parents’ plans for themselves and for you?
  • How close do you feel to each of your parents?
  • Do family and friends live near your parents?