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A divorce happens when two people who are married no longer want to be married to each other or live together. They agree to sign legal papers that make them each single again.

Sometimes both parents want to divorce (say: deh-VORS) and other times just one wants to. It's not easy for two people to decide to end a marriage. They often spend a long time trying to fix their problems before divorcing. But sometimes they can't and splitting up is the best choice.

A lot of emotions can pop up when change happens to your family, but learning more about divorce may make it a little easier to deal with.

Why Do Parents Get Divorced?

Parents divorce for different reasons, like: 

  • they keep fighting and feel they can’t live together anymore
  • the love they had when they married has changed
  • a parent falls in love with someone else
  • a parent has a serious problem like drinking or abuse
  • they decide to live apart even though nothing bad happened

Did I Cause My Parents' Divorce?

Whatever the reasons are, one thing is for sure: Kids don't cause divorce. Your parents' choice to split up has to do with problems between them — not because of something you did or didn’t do. Some kids think that if they had behaved better, gotten higher grades, or helped more around the house the divorce wouldn't have happened. It’s normal to feel like this and worry about what happened, but it’s not your fault and you’re not to blame.

How Might I Feel if My Parents Get a Divorce?

If your parents are divorcing, you may be feeling lots of strong emotions. Many kids don't want their parents to break up. Some kids have mixed feelings if they know their parents aren't happy together.

You may feel stressed out, angry, frustrated, or sad. You might want to protect one parent or blame the other. You may feel alone, afraid, worried, or guilty.

It’s also normal to feel relieved, especially if there’s been tension or fighting at home.

How Could Divorce Change Things?

Depending on what happens in your family, some things might be different with a divorce. Some kids have to change schools, move, or be with just one parent at a time. You might also have to deal with your parents being unkind to each other if they’re mad about things that happened before or during the divorce.

There can be good changes too. Many kids find that their parents are happier after the divorce and get along better with each other.

What Else Should I Know About Divorce?

Let your parents know how you feel about the divorce and be honest. It may also help to talk with another trusted adult. You can reach out to a teacher, school counselor, or religious leader (like a minister or rabbi).

Divorce can be a big adjustment for the whole family but lots of other kids have gotten through it. You will too.

Medically reviewed by: Maia Noeder, PhD
Date reviewed: June 2023