Divorce and Separation

Divorce and Separation

Divorce and Separation


It can be very upsetting if your parents decide to separate or divorce. You might have expected it to happen or it could be a shock to you. You might be feeling upset and angry or worried and overwhelmed. You may even feel relieved if your parents have been arguing a lot at home. One thing you should always remember is that this isn’t your fault.

There are a lot of reasons why couples split up. It might be because of a big problem like an affair or abuse. Sometimes people’s feelings for each other change or they can find it difficult to live together.

Parents can also separate to give them time and space to work through problems. Whatever is happening in your family remember that you are not alone.

It’s natural to worry about what might happen next. If your parents get divorced there will be changes in your life and that can feel scary. You may have to move home or change schools. You will also have to get used to spending time with each of your parents separately. This may mean you see one of them less than the other.

It can take time to adjust to this new kind of family life. Make sure you talk to your parents about how you’re feeling. They are still your mum and dad even if they are separating and they will care about your feelings. If you don’t want to talk to them you should get support from your friends, other family members or a counsellor.

Talking can help you cope with what you might be feeling. Telling your parents what you’re worried about can also help them. They will have to make a lot of decisions and knowing what you want may help them make those decisions.

You should try not to take sides with your parents. Even if one of them has done something that caused them to break up you should remember that they are both your parents. It’s normal to feel angry sometimes but try not to blame them. Everyone makes mistakes.

What’s the difference between divorce and separation?

A divorce is when your parents decide to end their marriage. There are some legal things your parents will have to do to get divorced. After they are divorced they could marry someone else if they wanted to.

Separation means your parents have split up. Usually it will mean one of them moves out. Sometimes couples separate to give themselves some time and space and they may get back together. This might be called a trial separation. Other times separation is for good and means the end of a relationship. If your parents aren’t married they will separate if they end their relationship. If your parents are married, separation can be the first step before getting divorced.

Who will I live with?

When parents break up it can lead to a lot of changes for you. In many cases parents are able to agree on the best place for you to live between themselves. They will have to think about many things when making that decision.

You might spend most of your time with one parent and only see the other one on weekends. Or you could split your time equally between your mum and dad. If one of your parents moves further away you may not get to see them as often. It’s important that you talk about how you feel with your mum and dad. Even if what you want to happen isn’t possible, it can help them understand how their divorce or separation is affecting you.

My mum and dad can’t decide where I’ll live, what happens now?

If your parents can’t agree where you’ll live between them then someone else will get involved to help make the decision. It might be a lawyer, a solicitor or a mediator.

In some cases a court will decide what happens next. This will be a special kind of court called a family court. This type of court only looks at decisions that need to be made in families. You won’t have to go to court, but you might be asked if you would like to write a letter for the judge who will be looking at your family’s case.

The important thing to remember is that everyone will be focusing on what’s best for you. Often there will be a formal arrangement to make sure you get to see both of your parents.

I’m feeling really angry and upset with my parents, what can I do?

It’s totally normal to feel angry and upset when your parents separate. It can feel like everything is changing and that can be scary. Don’t blame yourself for your parents’ relationship problems. When a relationship breaks up it can feel like someone has died. This means you are experiencing grief.

If you are feeling very sad or depressed you should talk to someone. Having a friend whose parents have separated can help as they will understand what you are going through. Another family member or a teacher could also support you. If you don’t want to talk to someone you know contact a helpline like Childline. Just remember you don’t have to cope with this alone.

Try to deal with your anger in constructive ways. Exercising and playing sport can be a good way to let some of the frustration out. You could write a journal or do some artwork to express your feelings. If you find yourself getting angry with your parents you should give yourself some space to cool down. You can say things you don’t mean when you’re angry. Take some time to collect your thoughts and try talking to them when you feel a bit calmer. It’s ok to get emotional but try to stay in control. 

I want my parents to get back together, can I make it happen?

Relationships are very complicated. There can be many things you don’t know about your parents’ relationship. While it can be normal to hope that they’ll get back together you shouldn’t try to make that happen. If it doesn’t work, it can leave you feeling even worse.

Deciding to separate is a big decision and one your mum and dad will have thought about a lot before they did it. If you don’t know how to cope with your parents’ separation you should talk to someone. Sometimes speaking to a person outside the situation can help. Calling a helpline like Childline can give you someone to talk to. You won’t have to worry that anything you say will get back to your mum or dad.  

How can I cope with living with a step family?

Sometimes after your parents divorce one or both of them may find a new partner. Sometimes that new partner can also have children. Moving in with a new family can be difficult to adjust to. You should talk to your mum or dad about anything you are worried about. Often these new relationships will happen gradually so you will have time to adjust.

Remember that it takes time to get to know new people and that’s the same if you have a new step family. Try talking to them and doing activities together to get to know each other better. If there’s anything you’re not sure about, talk to your mum or dad. They will be adjusting too so you can support each other.

Did you know?

-Nearly half of divorces in the UK involve children under 16

-8% of families in England and Wales are step families

-44% of children with divorced parents split their time equally between them or see their non-resident parent at least weekly






Help & Support

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