Families Change
Teen Guide to Separation & Divorce

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Decisions

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

First, they have to decide who the children will live with and how that will work.  (Maine law uses the terms “residence” and “parent-contact.”) For example, if the children live with one parent, how often and for how long will they get to see the other parent? 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). In a divorce, the court finalizes this division of property in the Divorce Judgment. In a separation, it is up to your parents to divide things in a way that they think is fair.

  • If they own a house, will they keep it? 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?

Either parent may have a lawyer. The lawyer's job is to help your parent understand the laws and to help your parent do what is best for you.  It is also common for parents not to have lawyers.  Sometimes they are too expensive.

Q & A

Q:
Who decides who I will live with?
A:

Ideally, your parents will make the decisions together about who you will live with and how that will work. Your opinion should be taken into account.

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.

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

Parents who 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.

Q:
What is the difference between separation and divorce?
A:

When two people have been living together and they decide not to live together anymore, they are separated. However, when married people separate, their marriage has not yet ended. They have to get a divorce to legally end a marriage. Common-law couples don't have to get a divorce, because there is no marriage to end.