Families Change
Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Key Words

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Child Support Money that one parent gives the other parent to help pay for the things that their children need.
Divorce A legal action two people take to end their marriage.
Marriage A legal agreement that allows two people to live together in a legal union.
Mediation A process for resolving conflicts between people where a neutral professional tries to help find a solution that meets everyone's needs.
Mediator A person who has been specially trained to help people resolve conflicts. 

Parental Rights and Responsibilities

How parents make major decisions about their children’s health, education, and welfare. Can be “shared” (parents have shared responsibilities) or “primary” (one parent has the responsibility alone) or “divided” (each parent has specific responsibilities).
Parent-Child Contact The time children spend with the parent they don’t live with most of the time. Some people refer to this as “parenting time.” (Some states use the word “visitation,” but Vermont law does not use that term.)
Separation When two people stop living together.
Shared Parental Rights This can mean a number of different things. A common example is when the children live part of the time with one parent and part of the time with the other parent with both parents making parental decisions.
Primary Parental Rights One parent has the responsibility of making decisions about caring for the child.

Q & A

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.

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.

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.