Divorce and custody arrangements are never easy. Coming to terms with the fact that your family is changing and making sense of what happened can be difficult. There are things you can do that might make the process a bit clearer, and talking to someone can make a huge difference. Custody agreements are often confusing and difficult to understand, but it’s important to know that if you don’t like the custody arrangement there are things you can do.
This might help if:
- Your family is going through a break up
- You’re worried about custody agreements
- You want to know things you can do to make sense of the divorce
Everything is changing
When a family breaks up, it’s usually difficult for everyone involved. Sometimes divorce happens after a long period of fighting and being miserable. Sometimes it happens suddenly and it can be hard to understand what is going on.
As family relationships change there will probably be a lot of stuff to adjust to. Everyone will have their own feelings about what is happening, from being deeply upset, to feeling a great sense of relief. It’s common to feel angry with the person who has decided the family can no longer live together.
Divorce might cause parents to become distracted. They might be arguing and fighting more often and this gets in the way of time with you. Whatever is happening between your parents doesn’t change the way they feel about you.
Often a family break up means moving back and forth between your parents’ places. Having to spread your clothes, things and time between two places might be hard and annoying. It’s not uncommon to want to stay in one place to catch up with friends or just to have the space you are used to.
Making sense of a family break-up
Adjusting might take a long while and a lot of negotiation. Sometimes you will need someone from outside the family to help everyone talk about what is happening. Think about when is a good time to ask questions about what is happening. If someone is extremely upset or emotional it might be a better idea to wait until you’re both calm.
What you can do
- Ask your parent or parents to explain why they have decided to stop living together.
- Let your parents know who you would prefer to live with.
- Ask them not to talk to you about their problems with each other.
- Try to maintain your relationship with both of them separately.
- Talk to other family members about how you feel.
- Ask to talk to someone outside the situation like a school counsellor or a family court counsellor.
When parents divorce there are usually decisions made about which parent will have custody, or who the children will live with. Sometimes one parent has sole custody and sometimes custody is shared.
A decision might be made that the children live with one parent most of the time, and that they visit the other one (access visits) a certain number of days per week, fortnight or month. Sometimes these arrangements are decided between the parents alone and sometimes they are decided with the help of the family court.
When the decision is made by the family court, the children's point of view is taken into account. The older you are, the more say you’ll have as to where you will be living.
If you are unhappy about a custody arrangement talk to someone about it and find out what the options are. Sometimes it is worthwhile talking to someone who is not personally involved with your family, like a counsellor or psychologist, as they can give more perspective on what you can do.