What happens next? Information for kids about separation and divorce

Appendix 3: Explanation of Terms

Note: this booklet includes the following terms because you may hear them used by your parents or even other kids whose parents have split up. Although these explanations can help you understand these terms, they are not complete legal definitions. If you need more complex, accurate definitions, please ask an adult you know to consult a legal dictionary.

The judge may state when and how often a parent who does not have custody can see you. You may hear people call this visitation.
A special written description of what has happened in your family. Usually lawyers help parents write these documents. Each parent has their own document. Each one signs their own affidavit to show that they agree with what is written down and that what is said is true. The document is then given to a judge to read.
Assessors, counsellors, social workers, psychologists or psychiatrists
Many people besides lawyers can give advice and help everyone in the family when the family is coping with all the changes that take place after a divorce. Their work is different and they are called by different names but they all listen and they all want to help.
Best interests of the child

Everyone (judges, parents, mediators, guardians, lawyers and ex­perienced professionals) involved in deciding where you should live after your parents split up has to consider what's best for you. There are a few things that everyone usually considers when your best interests are being decided:

  • The type of relationship you have with each parent before they split up
  • Your physical and emotional needs
  • Your parents' ability to care for you and make good decisions
  • Your culture, language and religion
  • Your views on the arrangement they are thinking about
  • Lots of other things that are important to you!
Child protection
When parents cannot provide adequate care for their children, child protection workers may get involved to protect the children and care for their physical health as well as their emotional well being.
Child support
The money one parent gives to the other parent to help to pay for things like rent, food and clothing for a child. A support order is the document prepared by the court saying what amount must be paid for the child's food, clothing and other living expenses.
Consent order
Means that your parents agreed on certain issues and had a judge sign the paper the agreement is written on.
The time that people other than your parents can spend with you. For example, your grandparents, an aunt, an uncle or maybe a very good friend of the family may want to have "contact" with you.
Court order
A decision by a judge that is written down. The order says what each person can or can't do and what they must or must not do. Court orders can be changed by going back to the judge and asking for a change, but only if there is a good reason.
A parent who has custody must take care of you and bring you up until you are an adult. Sometimes both parents have custody and that is called joint custody.
Parents who were married and then separated for a while (sometimes a long time) can get a divorce. When parents get divorced, a judge gives them a document that says they are not married anymore. After they get a divorce, parents can get married again.
Divorce Act
A law that tells parents, lawyers and judges what the rules are when parents get divorced.
Joint custody
This term is sometimes used when both parents have the legal responsibility to make decisions together about where you live, your school, your activities and your health. You may live mostly with one parent or you may live part of the time with each parent.
a person in court who makes decisions about parenting arrangements, child support payments, and where children will live.
A collection of rules that people use to settle disagreements with one another.
Legal system
The way people use laws (rules) to make sure that everyone is treated fairly. The legal system includes the police, lawyers, judges and others.
A way of talking about problems and exploring solutions to help solve them. A mediator is a person who runs the mediation sessions. They are a bit like hockey or baseball coaches. They try to help your parents work better as a team by giving them ways to talk with each other and make some changes.
Order (for example, civil protection, prevention, intervention, restraining, victim assistance or no-contact orders)
An order is made by a judge or Justice of the Peace and tells the abuser not to contact the victim or the victim's children or to stay away from certain places such as the family home, a child's school or where a parent works.
Parenting agreement or arrangement
After they separate, your parents will have to make decisions about your care. An agreement or arrangement is often written down and usually includes things like how much time you will spend with each parent and the things each parent will do to take care of you.
Peace bond
An order made in a criminal court telling the abuser to stay away from certain places such as the family home, a child's school or where a parent works. Disobeying a peace bond is a crime.
When parents who have lived together decide they don't want to live together anymore, we say they are separated.
Sole custody
Means one of your parents has legal responsibility for you and will make decisions about your school, your activities and your health.
To speak in court and tell what has happened to you or what you've seen. You may have to swear an oath on the Bible or promise that you are telling the truth and not making up stories.
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