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Sometimes parents who are splitting up use a process called mediation to try to reach agreement on the various decisions they have to make. The process is led by a mediator, who has been specially trained to act as a neutral third party in order to help people resolve their conflicts.

Unlike a judge, a mediator has no decision making power. If your parents use mediation, they will meet with the mediator at his or her office, usually a few times. The mediator will try to help them reach an agreement that meets everyone's needs. They will not have to go to court unless they are still unable to reach an agreement.

Q & A

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.

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.