What happens next? Information for kids about separation and divorce

Appendix 3: Legal words used in this booklet

This booklet uses some legal words because you may hear them used by your parents or even other kids whose parents have separated or divorced.

Best interests of the child

Everyone (judges, parents, mediators, guardians, lawyers and experienced professionals) involved in deciding where you should live and who should take care of you after your parents separate has to consider what's best for you. There are a few things that everyone usually considers when your best interests are being decided:

  • The type of relationship you had with each parent before they separated
  • Your physical and emotional needs
  • Your parents' ability to care for you and make good decisions
  • Your culture, language and religion
  • Your views on the arrangement they are thinking about
  • Whether there has been any violence in your family
  • Lots of other things that are important to you!
Child protection

When parents cannot provide adequate care for their children, child protection workers may get involved to protect the children and care for their physical health as well as their emotional well-being.

Child support

The money one parent gives to the other parent to help to pay for things like rent, food and clothing for a child. A child support order is the document prepared by the court saying what amount must be paid for the child's food, clothing and other living expenses.


The time that people other than your parents can spend with you. For example, your grandparents, an aunt, an uncle or maybe a very good friend of the family may want to have "contact" with you.

Court order

A decision by a judge that is written down. The order says what a person can or can't do and what they must or must not do. Court orders can be changed by going back to the judge and asking for a change, but only if there is a good reason.

Decision-making responsibility
The responsibility to make really important decisions about you, like where you will go to school or what medical care doctors can give you.

Parents who were married and then separated for a while (sometimes a long time) can get a divorce. When parents get divorced, a judge gives them a document that says they are not married anymore.

Divorce Act

A law that tells parents, lawyers and judges what the rules are when parents get divorced.


A person in court who makes decisions about parenting arrangements, child support payments, and where children will live.


A collection of important rules that people must follow.


A way of talking about problems and exploring solutions to help solve them. A mediator is a person who runs the mediation sessions. They are a bit like hockey or baseball coaches. They try to help your parents work better as a team by giving them ways to talk with each other and make some changes.

Parenting arrangement

After they separate, your parents will have to make decisions about how they will take care of you. A parenting arrangement is often written down and usually includes things like how much time you will spend with each parent and the things each parent will do to take care of you.

Parenting assessment

A report that helps a judge make decisions about things like how your parents will take care of you and where you will live. The person doing the parenting assessment will talk to a few different people to find out about your family life.

Parenting time

The time when each of your parents is responsible for looking after you and making day-to-day decisions about you.


When parents who have lived together as a couple decide they don't want to be a couple any more, we say they are separated.

Voice of the Child Report
A tool that can help make sure that judges know how you’re feeling about plans for your care after separation or divorce.