So...What's A Divorce?
In America, almost half of all first marriages end in divorce, but it is almost never easy. If the relationship involves children and teens, and especially if there are issues around child custody, the world might feel like it’s caving in.
My Parents Are Divorcing. What Am I Supposed To Feel?
Most people dealing with a divorce will experience three stages of emotions:
- Stage 1 – Shock, Denial, Anger, Sadness
- Stage 2 – Adjustment
- Stage 3 – Healing and Growth
You might even feel:
Is This Shit My Fault?
Divorce can be really fucking hard for everyone - including the children of the people getting a divorce. Sometimes parents fight for a long time before getting divorced. Sometimes the decision to get a divorce seems to come out of nowhere and without warning. A lot of teens might feel like the divorce is their fault. We're here to tell you IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT.
People divorce for a number of reasons and in many cases, their love for their children has made them hesitant to do anything to break up the family regardless of their relationship difficulties. It may not feel like it at the moment but your parents love you and want what's best for everyone, even if it sucks monkey balls and means everything is changing right now.
The Divorce Process:
Separation is usually the first step. Separation is a period of time when your parents will spend time apart. This gives them an idea if this is what they truly want, and to see how life is different without each other. Your parents may continue to live in the same house together, or one parent may move out. Some states require a period of separation before a legal divorce is granted.
Division of property is going through personal stuff and dividing up who gets what. This can be a very messy and difficult problem when your parents don't agree about who gets what. Sometimes the court and lawyers will be involved in a mediation process to help the parents decided how to separate belongings and property so that everything ends up fairly.
Custody has to do with where you will live and how much time you will spend with each parent. This changes on a case-by-case basis and depends on a lot of different factors. Often your opinion will be taken into account, as well as many other things - where you go to school, where your parents work, and what makes sense financially for your parents. The goal is to have you live where you want to be and where you will get the most benefit from both parents. As much as it sucks, both of your parents still love you and it is not your fault that you are in this position.
Legal process of divorce happens when the courts formally dissolve the marriage and all paperwork has been finalized.
While these are the basic guidelines of divorce, not all situations are the same, and many require on-going support and change. The process of divorce can sometimes take years if there are complications or disagreements.
Something For Your Parents To Remember:
If your parents are being douchebags about the divorce stuff, go ahead and print this out. Then paper the living room in it. Nah, I'm kidding. Just print it out.
- I need both of you to stay involved in my life. Please write letters, make phone calls, and ask me lots of questions. When you don’t stay involved, I feel like I’m not important and that you don’t really love me.
- Please stop fighting and work hard to get along with each other. Try to agree on matters related to me. When you fight about me, I think that I did something wrong and I feel guilty.
- I want to love you both and enjoy the time that I spend with each of you. Please support me and the time that I spend with each of you. If you act jealous or upset, I feel like I need to take sides and love one parent more than the other.
- Please communicate directly with my other parent so that I don’t have to send messages back and forth.
- When talking about my other parent, please say only nice things, or don’t say anything at all. When you say mean, unkind things about my other parent, I feel like you are expecting me to take your side.
- Please remember that I want both of you to be a part of my life. I count on both of you to raise me, to teach me what is important, and to help me when I have problems.
Source: University of Missouri
What You Can Do When Your Parents Are Divorcing:
Well, you can't make it all better for anyone (and if you can, let me know how), but here's how you can take care of yourself. Sometimes divorce gets ugly and parents forget that you have to cope with this change, too. That's not cool, but it happens. Here's some stuff you can remember:
- Remember that your parents love you. I know it's corny and dumb sounding, but it's true. They love you. They want what's best for YOU.
- Remember that you are not the cause of the divorce. Parents rarely divorce because of their kids. Yours aren't divorcing because of you. Sometimes, two people just can't make it work.
- Remember that it is okay to be upset. This is hard as hell to do - admitting weakness - but it's also important. You don't have to be okay.
- Talk to someone about how you're feeling. It doesn't have to be your parents. It could be a family friend, a teacher, a friend, or really, anyone. People get it.
- Ask questions. Divorce takes a long time and will come with a fuckton of changes. Ask about them.
Additional Divorce Resources:
A Kid’s Guide to Divorce - talks about some of the feelings you might have about divorce. Kinda aimed at younger kids.
The Human Rights Campaign – info about family law for LGBT couples.
Resources About Divorce for Parents:
Children and Divorce - comprehensive, practical, divorce related information. Kinda corny looking website, but the information is good.
Separated Parenting Access and Resource Center -a non-profit organization with one primary goal, which is to ensure that children of divorce have access to both parents, regardless of marital status.