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Divorce and separation

If your parents have decided to divorce or separate, you'll probably be worried about what this means for you. Talking about it with other people will help and you’ll also have say when it comes to deciding which parent you’ll live with.

Why are they breaking up?

A couple can break up for a number of reasons and there's often a combination of complicated issues behind a decision to separate. You may feel sad, angry or shocked when you hear the news.

You may also feel guilty and think that you've somehow played a part in the break up. Whatever the reasons behind your parents breaking up, it's important to remember that it's not your fault.

If you feel relieved, don't worry. You may feel that its a strange reaction to have to such a serious situation. However, if your parents have been arguing or hurting each other, it may be better for everyone if they lived apart from each other.

Living with one parent

You may be worried that you'll have to choose which of your parents you want to live with. Whether your parents sort out all their issues between them or they're disagreeing with each other, you should always be asked for your opinion.

During a divorce or separation, your parents may go through a process called mediation to sort out all the arrangements. As a part of this process, you're allowed to have your say about what you think would be best for you, and whether you're happy with the decisions that may affect you.

Mediation doesn't take place in a court room; it's an informal chat with a welfare or mediation officer. They will explain what your parents have decided and ask you how you feel about those decisions. If you disagree with anything, the welfare or mediation officer feed your thoughts back and the decisions may be changed.

Remember that the main consideration when it comes to deciding which parent you live with will be what’s best for you. It won’t be based on your parents’ preferences.

Talk about it

Being involved in a divorce or separation is an upsetting experience for everyone involved. Although it can be difficult, it's important for you to talk to your parents about how you're feeling. As well as giving them an idea of how you're coping, it gives you a chance to have a better understanding of why they're separating.

If you have friends whose parents are separated or divorced, you may want to talk to them. They may be able to help you through the experience by talking about what happened to them.

Going to court

If your parents are disputing something, like how often you'll see the parent you're not living with, the matter may go to court. It's unlikely that you'll be asked to answer questions in front of your family. You will be asked about your feelings on the issue that's being decided.

You'll probably have a talk with a children and family reporter from an organisation called Cafcass. They'll explain the issue that's being discussed and ask you what you think would be the best outcome in your opinion. What you say in this interview will be given to the court in the form of a family report.

Domestic violence or abusive parents

Your parents may be separating because their relationship is an abusive or violent one, or one of them has problems with drugs or alcohol. If this is the case, then the matter is likely to skip the mediation step and go straight to court.

In these situations, the safety of you and your parent is the most important thing the courts will consider.

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