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Who will my child live with?

Who will my child live with?
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CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario / Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
Ministry of the Attorney General

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Who will my child live with?
This question has an answer and 4 steps
July 15, 2019

You and your partner have to decide who your child lives with after you separate or divorce. This is called deciding your child's residence.

Deciding your child’s residence is different from custody. Custody means having the legal right to make important decisions about how to care for and raise your child. Custody is not about who your child lives with.

For example, even if you have custody and are the only one who can make decisions about your child, your child might live equal amounts of time with you and your partner. Or, your child might live mainly with you, but you and your partner have joint custody and share decision-making.

Wherever a child lives most of the time is called their primary residence. If a parent has sole custody, that parent's home is usually the child's primary residence. And the other parent usually has access.

Shared residence is when a child lives mostly equal amounts of time with each parent. One home may still be considered the primary residence with the other being the secondary residence.

If you and your partner agree on where your child lives, you can put what you agree on in an agreement.

If you can't agree, you can ask a family law professional like a mediator to help you work out an agreement.

For example, each family court location in Ontario offers subsidized mediation services. You can get up to 8 hours of mediation for a fee that is based on each person's income. You can use this service whether or not you have a court case. And if you have a court case, you can get up to 2 hours of mediation for free at the court.

Or, you can go to court and ask a judge to decide.

The judge uses a legal test called the best interests of the child to decide where your child lives. Judges usually assume it is better for a child to have a relationship with each of their parents after separation or divorce.

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