Homelove, sex & relationshipsfamilywhat is family separation?

What is family separation?

Family separation is when your parents decide to separate or divorce. This could be a long process, happening over a number of years, or it could happen suddenly. 

If this happens to you, know that you are not alone — around 11,000 teenagers are affected by family separation every year.

It can be a really confusing time and you might feel a whole lot of different emotions. You might feel angry at the person who has decided to leave, or upset or even relieved that your family is changing. It’s important to remember to look after yourself during what can be a pretty tough time. There will probably be lots of changes in your life. You might have to move between houses, and get used to spending time with your parents separately. 

Remember that this is not your fault, you shouldn’t blame yourself for the problems your parents are having and know that it doesn’t change the way your parents feel about you. Check out more info on family separation from Reachout and Kids Helpline.

What are your rights?

You are entitled to legal and basic human rights, that means you always have a right to:

  • a meaningful relationship with both your parents
  • be protected from abuse, neglect or family violence
  • receive adequate and proper parenting to help you achieve your full potential
  • know and be cared for by both parents
  • spend time with and communicate with both parents and other significant people, such as grandparents and other relatives
  • the support and encouragement necessary to maintain a connection with your culture. (Rights from Kids Helpline)

If one of your parents is violent you do not have to live with them, you can call 1800 RESPECT for help and support. Visit Youth Law Australia for more info on your legal rights and send them a message for legal advice.

What’s the best way to deal with family separation?

Try to talk to your parents about what’s going on, ask them why they are separating and explain how you feel. 

But, if your parents are struggling to deal with the separation themselves, they might find it hard to listen to and support you. If this is the case try talking to someone else, like a friend, teacher or school counsellor. They will be able to support you without taking sides.

 If you want to speak with someone outside of your family, call Kids Helpline and speak to one of their counsellors. 

How does custody work?

Usually your parents will try together to work out your living arrangements, whether you will live with one parent or move between their houses. If your parents can’t agree they may ask the family court to make a decision for them. If this happens the judge will try to make a decision that is best for you. 

Learn more

If you are anxious about going to family court, or family separation in general, talk to an adult you trust about it, or call Kids Helpline.

Need someone to talk to? Free, confidential support is available.

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