Families Change
Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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To get a divorce or a “Parental Rights and Responsibilities” order, your parents need to go to court. It can be a long process.  It starts when one of them files required papers with the court.  Then they meet with a case manager to talk about the issues they need to decide.  If they need help to agree on things, sometimes they will see a mediator.

If parents can’t work out an agreement, they will have to ask the court to decide the things they disagree on.  If they are getting divorced, Vermont law says the divorce process for parents with children under 18 has to take at least 6 months.  Sometimes this court process takes longer. If there are many disagreements, or lots of issues to sort out, it can take much longer.

Children and teens usually don't have to go to court. However, someone who works for the court – or a “Guardian ad Litem” - might meet with you to find out what you want and what is best for you.  A Guardian ad Litem is a person hired by the court to find out more about your needs and report back to the court.

Q & A

Who decides who I will live with?

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.

What is the difference between separation and divorce?

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.

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

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.