Separation - Ok, so what happens now?

Question Who will I live with?


  • You might live with one parent most of the time and visit your other parent at agreed times.
  • You might spend part of the time living with one parent and part with the other parent.
  • In some situations, living with a member of your extended family, such as a grandparent, aunt or uncle, may be seen as the best option.

These decisions are usually based on practical issues such as minimising the disruption to your life, which parent is closest to your school and who has more time to help with day-to-day things. If your parents can't agree this together, it is likely that the Family Court will make the decision. See also the My Rights section.

If there has been violence or abuse in your family, your safety will be the priority. This might mean that you don't continue to see one parent, or that your visits with one parent are supervised by an independent person to keep you safe.

Check out the contacts listed in the Finding Help section or look at the pages on dealing with domestic abuse

Question What if my brothers or sisters choose to live with my other parent?

AnswerIf this happens, don't panic. It's normal for everyone in a family to deal with separation differently. Your brothers and sisters might have different views and feelings about the separation than you. They also have different needs to you.

The important thing is not to let your differences, or different homes, affect your relationship. Agree to work at it! Stay in regular contact. It's worth it!

Question Will I have to move schools?

AnswerThis might happen due to practical reasons like changing homes and your existing school might now be too far away. You will need to give yourself time to settle in. Getting involved in activities after school, like sports or clubs, can be a good way to make new friends. Let your parents, a teacher / school guidance counsellor or someone else you trust know if you are finding it hard to adjust. It's also important to keep in touch with your old friends too.

Question Will there be enough money?

Answer It is possible there may be less money, at least for a while. This might mean:

  • Parents might need to work more.
  • A parent who previously worked in the home might need to work in a job outside the home.
  • There might be less money for treats and ‘extras'.

Question It's hurtful when my relatives take sides or criticise my parent. What can I do?

AnswerpictureThe important thing to remember is that everyone in a family deals with separation differently. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins will all have feelings and opinions about it. But these are their opinions, not yours and it is okay not to share them.

Try talking to the relative in question about your views and how their behaviour is making you feel. If you don't feel comfortable doing this, ask one of your parents or someone else you trust for advice and help with the situation.

Remember, it's important to try to keep up relationships with relatives from both sides of your family after the separation. Close relatives, like grandparents, can be important sources of support for you.

Question What if one of my parents moves away?

AnswerThis can make it hard to spend time with them and keep a close relationship going - but it's worth the effort. It's not your fault your parent moved away and it might help to talk to them about your feelings about it. Ask about visits in school holidays and for long weekends. Make plans to stay in regular contact through telephone calls, sending texts, writing letters, sending emails or using ‘skype' and a web-cam.

‘I feel my dad could have sort of made the effort maybe to say, "Well until you are 18 I'll stay in... [name of city where girl lives]."' (Girl, aged 17)

Question I'm finding it hard to concentrate at school. What can I do?

AnswerIt is very difficult to apply yourself to classes, study and homework when there is so much upheaval in your family life.


  • Although you might want to keep your family situation private, it's better to let your school know. Most teachers can usually understand how difficult family separation is for students.
  • Talk it over with your parent. Decide who is the best person at school to talk to.
  • Try not to hide the separation from your friends at school either. It's good to have someone to talk to there, especially if you are having a tough day.
  • Let your parent know if any additional family responsibilities, before or after school, are affecting your school work.

‘I'd say sort of getting away from it at school helps.' (Girl, aged 17)

Question How can I help make my new living arrangements work?




  • Plan a diary
    Write down the details of the time you'll be spending with each parent in a diary or calendar. Mark down ‘days with dad', ‘days with mum', times and arrangements for holidays, birthdays and other special occasions.
  • Have a kit
    Keep a toothbrush, hairbrush, some clothes and other important stuff that you always need at both houses, so you don't have to carry so much with you each time.
  • Have a space
    Ask your parents:
    - For a special place in each house to keep your things
    - If you can decorate a space, a bedroom or even a corner in your parent's new home(s) so you can feel more at home there.

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