When parents decide to break up they have to make decisions about your future. The main decisions are where you will live and how you will stay in contact with the other parent. In most cases parents make these decisions between themselves, but they should consult you on any decisions and take your feelings and wishes into account.
Who you live with is known as residency. Residency will be decided based on what is in your best interests. Some of the things that parents and courts consider in deciding on where you will live are:
- Who has looked after you most during the marriage. For example, if your mum stayed at home to care for you she will probably continue to care for you.
- Who you want to live with. The Children's Act says that you have a right to have a say in your future. Unless there is a good reason why you cannot live with the parent you want to, for example they have nowhere to live or they cannot look after you properly, you should have a say on which parent you live with.
- Where you live already and how settled you are, how close your school and friends are to you.
- What kind of life you will have with the parent you live with, for example can they spend time with you, care for you, help you with homework, make sure that you can take part in extra curricular activities and ensure your safety?
Most young people stay with their mum and live in the family house without having to move. However, sometimes children are taken away from the family home and in other cases mum leaves and dad stays at home. Sometimes mum or dad move in with a new family and a stepfamily is formed. It is important to remember that every family is different, but your parents still love you and will always be your parents.
The parent you live with will have a duty to make sure you still stay in touch with your mum or dad unless there is a reason why this would not be good for you. Between them they should make some arrangements to make this happen. This is called Contact.