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When parents separate or divorce, they have to make a lot of decisions.

First, they have to decide on custody and parenting time, or who their children will live with and how that will work.

For example:

If the children live with one parent, when will they get to see the other parent? How often? And for how long? If the children live with both parents, will they stay with one parent during the week and the other during the weekend? Or will they spend one week with one parent and one week with the other?

Then parents have to decide how much money one parent has to give the other to help pay for the things their children need. This is called child support.

Parents also have to decide how they will divide all of their property (the things they own together). For example:

  • If they own a house, will they keep it, and if so, who will keep it?
  • How will things like the furniture, cars, TV, computer, and pictures be divided?
  • How will they divide their money and any debts they may have?

Each parent may have a lawyer. The lawyer's job is to help his or her client understand the laws on separation and divorce, and to help that person do what he or she thinks is best for the children.

If parents can't agree on the things they need to decide on, they have a couple of options. They can go to a mediator, and use mediation to reach an agreement. Or they might have to go to court and have a judge make the decisions for them.

Q & A

Will I be able to spend time with both parents?

In the vast majority of cases, children get to spend time with both parents. How much time you spend with each parent, and exactly how that will work, will depend on your custody and parenting time (visitation) arrangements.

Remember: Parents divorce each other, not their children. Your parents are still your parents, and they still love you.

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

Parents who never married or 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.

Who decides who I will live with? Do I get a say?

In some cases, your parents will make the decisions together about who you will live with and how that will work.

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.

Whether your parents make the decisions about custody and parenting time (visitation) themselves, or with the help of a mediator or a judge, your opinion may be taken into account.