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Can I take my child with me when I leave my abusive partner?

Question
Can I take my child with me when I leave my abusive partner?

Glossary

Clear language definitions to common legal terms. 

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Reviewed: 
May, 2016
Answer

Both parents have an equal legal right to custody of their child when their relationship ends. No parent has a greater legal right to custody over the other parent, even if they did most of the child care or were abused by the other parent. Only a court order or agreement changes this equal right.

If you leave your partner and take your child with you, your partner might say that you ignored their equal right to custody. Your partner might even say that you abducted the child.

The family court might order that your child be returned to your partner's care if it thinks that is in the best interests of the child. However, this does not mean you must leave your child behind when you leave your partner.

You should talk to a lawyer before you leave your partner. Your lawyer can help you make parenting plans with your partner before you leave, if it is safe. These can be short-term plans that say where the child lives and when they see each parent.

If you don't make these plans with your partner before you leave and take your child with you, you or your lawyer can write a letter to your partner. The letter should say that you want to talk about custody and access issues.

If it is safe, tell your partner how to contact you. Or, tell them that you will contact them within a day or two.

If it is not safe, leave a message for your partner once you are in a safe place. Take steps so that they cannot easily find you.

Your safety plan should include ways to keep you safe when making custody and access plans.

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