If your parents are about to divorce or separate you may have questions about what might happen and be worried about things you see on TV or that friends tell you. This article has been written to provide the facts.
- To get a divorce one parent has to start the process. They become the petitioner and have to give reasons for the divorce. You can read more about the reasons that can be given for divorce here.
- A divorce normally takes around 6 – 9 months to be processed by the court system. However, parents will often also want to try and reach a formal agreement about money and about the care and living arrangements for their children, before the divorce is finalised. This means the whole process normally takes longer.
- Hopefully, your parents will agree between them (and you may be involved in these decisions) where you will live and arrangements for you to see both of them. If they can agree with this between themselves there is no need to involve solicitors or to have any court hearings.
- Sometimes it can be difficult for parents to agree. The law requires that parents try mediation before they ask a Judge to make a ruling. Mediation is a way of sitting down with someone neutral to try and reach an agreement. If this is not possible or does not work, they can ask a Judge to decide what should happen. This would normally involve both parents attending a court hearing. It is rare for children to be involved in these court hearings, but your wishes and feelings are taken into account as a teenager.
- You may see or hear talk of ‘custody’. This term no longer exists in law. The Judge will just want to make sure that your best interests are being looked after and that you have an opportunity to spend time and have a relationship with both parents.
- When it comes to money your parents may be able to reach an agreement between themselves relating to their finances and how they will be divided when they divorce. If they are unable to agree a Judge will be asked to decide at a Court hearing. You would never be asked to be involved in this type of court hearing.
- It may be that your parents will appoint a solicitor to act on their behalf in the divorce. Sometimes parents find it easier to negotiate through these third parties, rather than directly with their partner.
There are some myths you may be aware of – here are the facts:
Children always live with mum when parents separate
Not true. Your parents will discuss what’s best for you, and them. And if they cannot agree a Judge will decide what is in your best interests. Your wishes and feelings will be taken into account.
The person at ‘fault’ in divorce will be punished
Not true. It really doesn’t matter who starts the divorce, or really what the reasons for divorce are. There is no financial penalty. If a Judge is involved in helping your parents reach a financial settlement for example, they will only be looking at what each party needs to live on.
Where can you get help?
If you have worries about what might happen you may wish to visit the Voices in the Middle website. This is a website built by and for young people who have experienced their parents splitting up.