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.
Joint Custody Joint custody can mean a number of different arrangements, including one in which the children live part of the time with one parent and part of the time with the other parent, but both parents help to make decisions about their children's.
Legal Custody How parents make major decisions about the child's health, education, and welfare. Can be joint (both parents have certain responsibilities) or sole (one parent has the responsibility alone).
Marriage A legal agreement that allows two people to live together in a legal union.


A process for resolving conflicts between people, using neutral professional help to find a solution that meets everyone's needs. When the mediator makes a recommendation for child custody or parenting time, the process will be called Child Custody Recommending Counseling.
Mediator A person who has been specially trained to act as a neutral third party in helping people resolve conflicts.
Parenting Plan A parenting plan describes how the parents will divide their responsibilities for taking care of their child. The plan may include a general or specific schedule of days, times, weekends, holidays, vacations, transportation, pick-up-drop-off, limits on travel, counseling, and treatment services, and other details..
Parenting Time/Visitation/Time-Share The time children spend with the parent who does not have custody. Custody and parenting time can also include a parent's right to receive information about the children's health, education and welfare. Another word for parenting time that is sometimes used is visitation.
Physical Custody Where the child lives; can be joint or sole.
Separation When two people stop living together.
Sole Custody Can be physical and/or legal and refers to the situation where one parent has the responsibility for the child.
Seperation Agreement A contract between two people who have separated, stating, among other things, where their children will live and how they will divide their property.


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.