What happens next? Information for kids about separation and divorce

Chapter One: Everything is changing

The family

All families are different. You may only have one parent living with you. You may have stepparents. Your grandparents or aunts or uncles may live with you.

No matter what your family looks like, it's your family and it's important to you. Anytime there are big changes in a family it affects all the members of that family. This means you too!

How things might change

Separation and divorce are all about change.

But here are some things that won't change: your parents still care about you, and they still have to take care of you.

Taking care of you includes giving you affection and love, and also making decisions about where you go to school, what you can do after school and taking you to the doctor when you are sick.

If your parents were married, they need to go through a legal process to get a divorce. After they get the divorce, they won't be married to each other anymore.

One or both of your parents may get married again after they divorce, or they may find another person to live with. If that happens, you may have new people in your family. Even with all these changes, your parents are still your parents. They still have to look out for you until you are grown up.

Separation means your parents live in different places — a different house or apartment and sometimes in a different city, province or even a different country.

No matter where they live, they will have to work out a parenting arrangement for you.

There are many ways your parents could come up with a parenting arrangement. No matter how they come up with the arrangement, it will say where you're going to live and it may spell out your schedule, who is going to pay for what, and who will take you to activities, sign your report card, meet you off the bus and stay with you when you're sick.

Parenting arrangements are usually written down in a parenting agreement or they can be part of a court order made by a judge.

There are lots of terms used in parenting agreements and court orders. The custody and Divorce Act uses parenting time, decision-making responsibility and contact. In some provinces and territories, the words custody and access are used. In others, words like care and control and guardianship are used. Each of these terms has its own meaning.

Another thing that won't change after your parents separate — they will still be responsible for paying for things you need, like food, clothing, and a place to live.

This means that your parents will have to work out a way to pay for these things now that they aren't living in the same place. The money one parent pays to your other parent to spend on taking care of you is called child support.

Sometimes a parent doesn't pay the child support they are supposed to. This can cause problems. You don't have to worry about being involved in this. It is up to parents to deal with it.


Your parents may have to go to court if they can't agree on a parenting arrangement or some other issues that they need to deal with because they are separated. (You probably won't have to go to court at all. Most kids don't.)

To get ready for court, your parents may each hire their own lawyer to give them advice and prepare the right documents for court. Family law lawyers are people who help parents work out problems about separation and divorce. These lawyers are trained to understand family law and help parents understand how family law affects them.

The court documents can be about one or many topics. For example, they may be about getting a divorce, or setting up a parenting arrangement for you and your brothers and sisters. They could also be about money or other things your parents will have to deal with now that they don't live together.

Lawyers may also help each parent prepare documents that describe what has happened in your family. Each parent tells the story from their own point of view.

Going through the court process may take a long time. Often, before going to court, parents will meet with a family law professional. The name used for these professionals is different across Canada. They could be called a mediator, counsellor, or dispute resolution officer. Whatever they're called, they will try to help your parents come to an agreement about their separation or divorce.

If your parents still don't agree after meeting with a family law professional, they may need to go to court. In these situations, the judge makes the final decisions about parenting arrangements, child support payments and where you will live. These decisions are written in a court order. The judge's decision may not be the one you might want, but it will be made in your best interests.

In some places in Canada, when parents can't agree on parenting arrangements, a judge may decide that someone else, like a social worker or a psychologist, should make a recommendation about the parenting arrangement that would be in your best interests They may ask to talk to you. If they do, it will give you a chance to tell someone how you see things.

Farah's story

Eight months after Farah was born, her dad moved away and Farah and her mom began their lives together without him.

All that happened so long ago that Farah only remembers living with her mom. Her dad sends some money to help pay the rent on their apartment, for daycare while her mom is working, and for food, clothing and the other things Farah needs like dental care. Every few months, Farah sees her dad. If she misses him, she can call him. She always loves it when he calls her.

Sometimes things get difficult when he doesn’t send the money on time and her mom starts worrying. Luckily her mom and dad are usually able to work out the money problems themselves.


  • Your parents don’t live together anymore, but they still care about you.
  • Parents may have a hard time talking and listening to one another after they separate.
  • There may be confusion and even arguments all around you during all this.
  • It may seem like it's all about you, but the real trouble is between your parents.
  • It isn’t your job to try to make them happy.

What kind of clothing does a house wear?

Answer: Address