Dealing with Divorce

From the WebMD Archives

Are your parents getting divorced? You are not alone. About half of all marriages end in divorce. But dealing with divorce isn't easy. The divorce process can be painful and sad for everybody involved (parents, kids, grandparents, close friends, and more).

Why Are My Parents Divorcing?

There are two basic reasons why most people get divorced:

  1. They cannot get along with each other.
  2. They don't feel connected to each other anymore.

If your parents can't get along, you may have noticed that they fight a lot. While most married couples fight occasionally, some folks get to the point where they always fight. This can be very unpleasant for everybody.

If your parents don't feel connected, you may notice that they do not spend time together unless they have to. Again, this is normal -- to a point. Every couple will have times when they feel closer to each other and times when they don't. But some couples get to the point where they have not felt connected for a long time. This can be very lonely and sad for them.

Are My Parents Getting Divorced Because of Me?

Parents do not get divorced because of their children. If your parents are divorcing, it is because of problems in their relationship -- not because of you or anything you did or said.

Can I Try to Get My Parents Back Together?

This is not a good idea. Trying to get your parents back together can put you in the middle of their fighting, which is not a fun place to be. Your parents' relationship is their responsibility. Try to stay out of their fighting, and let them resolve their own problems.

What Does Custody Mean?

If you are under 18, you are considered a minor and one or both of your parents will have custody of you. "Custody" means who is legally responsible for you and whom you will live with. There are three types of custody: primary custody, joint legal custody, and joint physical custody.

Primary Custody. With primary custody, you live with one parent most of the time and visit the other parent several times a month. A typical primary custody arrangement is when you live with your mom and visit your dad every other weekend. But, this is just one type of arrangement. Some teens live with their dads and visit their moms on weekends.

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In primary custody, the parent you live with makes the decisions about major things, like what schools to attend, what doctors to go to, and things like that. Your other parent may have opinions, but the primary custody parent legally has to make the decision.

Joint Legal Custody. This is just like primary custody, except that the parent you don't live with can legally make decisions about major things in your life. You would still live with one parent most of the time and visit the other parent several times each month.

Joint Physical Custody. With joint physical custody, you live with both parents, and both parents can make major decisions about things in your life. You will spend half or almost half your time at each parent's house. The exact amount of time depends on what your parents have arranged or what the divorce judge has decided.

Who Will Have Custody of Me?

Custody and living arrangements are determined by your parents and the divorce judge. Sometimes parents will work out custody and living arrangements before going to divorce court. Other times, parents will let the judge decide.

Usually, the person you live with will have custody of you. About 75% of the time, children live with their moms. About 10% of the time, they live with their dads. And 15% of the time, they live with both parents at different times.

Can I Choose Which Parent to Live With?

Many states allow children to decide on the parent they want to live with after they reach a certain age. But every state has different laws on this matter.

Usually, a judge will make the final decision but consider what the child wants. Generally, the older you are, the more likely a judge will let you live with the parent you want.

Dealing with Divorce: Overcoming Bad Feelings

Feeling sad, angry, depressed, or anxious because your parents are getting divorced is normal. Usually, these feelings are worst when your parents first get divorced. Over time, they should get better, but it is normal to still feel upset sometimes.

Try talking to your friends, especially if their parents are divorced, too. They may know how you are feeling.

Seeing a therapist can help as well. The therapist can help you work through your feelings and may recommend group therapy. With group therapy, you can share your feelings with other teens going through the same thing, and learn ways to cope with the problems and emotions of divorce.

WebMD Feature

Sources

SOURCES: Ohio State University web site: "What Do You Know? Fact Sheets on Divorce."

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