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For kids:
Here's some help understanding what's happening



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Link to other kid-divorce stuff here


 

Back to top What is divorce?


Here's 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 getting un-married.

Parent-child love 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.

Once upon a time

Going to court



Getting 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.

Getting divorced 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 things.

Back to top 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 to you.

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 it.

In some places, the person who helps the court collect information is called by other names. For example:
  • "Special advocate"
  • "CASA worker"
  • Evaluator
  • "Children's lawyer"



Back to top Do I have to choose?

No.

No one should ever ask you which parent you love more or who you want to live with, not even your parents themselves.

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 question."

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."


Do I have to choose?

Back to top Kids have rights, too!

Whether 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 the other.
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 caregiver.
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.



Back to top Is 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 backfire.
"The Parent
                                  Trap"

Back to top I want to be heard!

Can you hear me?


Lots 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 rumor.

Back to top "I don't know and I don't care!"

"I don't have anything to say."

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 participate.

You don't have to say a word.
stop



Back to top I'm really mad! (Sad! Scared! Relieved!)

I'm mad

Yep.
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 help.

This 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.
 
Back to top Your needs or your wants and wishes?

You need food. You want ice cream.
You need shelter. You want to live in a mansion.
You need friends. You want social media.

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.


  Back to top Links to other divorce stuff for kids

(Click on an image to visit a resource)     


Laearn more here
Read more here
Reda more here
Read more here

Also check out...




Kids' Turn resources for families in transition
Read more here


Helping Child Deal with Divorce (activities)
Read more here


"Little children: Big challenges"
Read more here


"I am a child of divorce"
Reda more here


"Kids and divorce"
Read more here


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