What is divorce?
how it works:
Once upon a time,
mom and dad met and fell in love and
got married. They made you. Back then,
mommy loved daddy and daddy loved
mommy and each of them loved you.
Adult love can
break. If your parents are getting
divorced, chances are that the love
between them is broken. They're
can't break. Even after the divorce,
even though mommy and daddy don't love
each other any more, even if mommy or
daddy fall in love with someone else,
they will always love you.
divorced usually means that parents
hire lawyers to help make sure that
the decisions that they make about the
future are legal. There are laws that
say how divorces can happen.
also usually means that the adults go
to court. Judges are decision-makers
who work in courts. The judge's job is
to make the final decisions when
divorcing parents don't agree on
| What is a
Guardian ad litem?
The judge sometimes
asks a specially trained helper
called a Guardian ad litem or
G.A.L. to collect information to
help him or her make decisions.
The G.A.L. will probably talk to
your parents, visit both of your
homes, and may even want to talk
You don't have
to talk to the G.A.L., but if
you do, it's important that you
are honest. Remember that you've
lived in your family your whole
life, but the G.A.L. is just
catching up. He or she might get
confused or misunderstand and
have to ask the same questions
twice. It's okay to correct the
G.A.L. if he or she doesn't get
places, the person who
helps the court collect
information is called by
other names. For example:
I have to choose?
No one should ever ask you which
parent you love more or who you want
to live with, not even your parents
If anyone asks you, "who do you want
to live with, your mom or your dad?"
You can say, "I don't know" or "I'm
just a kid." or "That's an impossible
But what if one parent says bad things
about the other parent? It's okay to
respectfully and politely say, "That
hurts my feelings" or "Please don't
say those things around me."
Kids have rights, too!
you're 5 or 17, you have have rights in
the divorce process, too.
1. You have
a right to feel safe no matter which
parent you are with.
2. You have a right to
feel loved and valued by both parents.
3. You have a right to
love each of your parents without ever
feeling that loving one is a betrayal of
4. You have a right to
be protected from adult stuff. Your job
is to be a kid, not to be promoted to be
a parent's helper, or best friend, or
5. You have a right to
have feelings and opinions and to
express yourself as long as you are
polite and respectful.
6. You have a right to
share your thoughts and feelings about
how your family is changing and to know
that the adults are listening.
7. You have a right to make the judge
aware of your thoughts and feelings (if
you want to) by talking to the G.A.L.
or, sometimes, by talking to the judge
him- or herself.
it my fault?
No. The divorce
cannot be your fault.
You're the kid.
The adults' job is to take care of you.
It is NOT your job to take care of them.
That may seem obvious, but guess what?
Every child blames him- or herself for
divorce at some point. Every
child imagines "If I weren't born" or
"If I had straight A's in school" or
"If I didn't get in trouble so much"
then they'd stay together. These
thoughts are normal and expectable but
they are not true.
It's also normal and
expectable to want the family to get
back together. Remember the movie,
"The Parent Trap"? Twin girls get
their divorced parents back together.
Sorry. Its a fun movie but it's
fiction. You probably wish that mom
and dad would get back together, but
trying to make this happen will only
want to be heard!
of kids want to have a say about the
divorce and especially about which home
they live in, when and how long. You
don't get to decide, but you should get
to be heard. That's part of the G.A.L.'s
job: to really listen and try to
understand what's important to you.
When do you get to
decide? The rules are different in
different places. Generally, your
opinions will matter more and more as
you get older, but you won't get to
choose until you're 18 years old.
"But what about the
rumor that I can choose when I'm 14?"
Sorry. In most places that's just a
don't know and I don't care!"
|"I don't have anything to
Okay. That's a choice that you can make.
Lots of kids don't care. Their parents'
arguments and lawyers and the whole
divorce just seem like a pain that gets in
the way of your time with your friends or
your homework or sports practice.
You probably have to meet the G.A.L. You
may have to go to other appointments and
interviews and boring meetings about the
divorce. You have a responsibility to be
polite and respectful even if you don't
want to be there, but you do not have to
You don't have to say a word.
really mad! (Sad! Scared! Relieved!)
That makes sense.
I'd be surprised if you weren't mad
or scared or sad or relieved. Your
parents' arguments and the divorce
process will probably make you feel
ALL of these at some time.
The problem is NOT
that you're feeling these strong
feelings, the problem is what you do
with them. If you shut down or act
out or lose sleep or get in trouble
or get sick because you're all
stirred up inside, things are only
going to get worse. If you find a
healthy way to vent these feelings
by talking or writing or music, with
friends and especially with adult
helpers, things will get easier.
Feelings are like
bricks. Its always easier to carry
them around if you have people to
can be what therapy is for. Finding
someone whom you can trust to help you
carry the bricks. Friends are great, but
they're busy with their own stuff growing
up. A therapist can be "a port in the
storm." A safe place to figure things out
while the arguments go on around you.
"Will my therapist tell
my parents what I say?" Ask. The rules are
different in different places.
Your needs or your wants and wishes?
food. You want ice cream.
You need shelter. You want
to live in a mansion.
You need friends. You want
A very big part of many
divorces is figuring out what you want and how
that might be different from what you need.
Your parents and their helpers (lawyers) and
the G.A.L. and the court are supposed to work
together to make sure that you have what you
need. You may not get what you want.
Links to other divorce stuff for kids
an image to visit a
Turn resources for families in
Child Deal with Divorce (activities)
children: Big challenges"
am a child of divorce"