Who will my child live with?

4. Go to court

You and your partner might still not be able to agree on living arrangements for your child even with the help of a family law professional. If this is your situation, one of you will have to start a family law court case.

Going to court can be a complicated process and it can take a lot of time. It can be stressful and expensive, but it is sometimes necessary to decide your issues. This family law court process flowchart explains each step in a family law court case.

Judges usually assume it's better for a child to have a relationship with all their parents after they separate or . They make decisions using the family law rules and laws.

Judges look at all the evidence and decide and using a legal test called the . Decision-making responsibility and parenting time used to be called and .

The best interests of the child test looks at things like:

  • the child's physical, emotional, and psychological safety, security, and well-being
  • the relationship between each parent and the child
  • how long the child has lived in a stable situation
  • each parent's plan to care for and raise the child
  • the child's views and wishes, unless there's no way to find out what they are
  • if there's been abuse against any family member or any child

The judge will also want to know:

  • how old your child is
  • where your child goes to school or daycare
  • what your physical living space is like
  • how close you and your partner live to each other
  • your work hours
  • who can care for your child when you are at work
  • whether anyone else lives with you
  • whether your child has any special needs

You can talk to a lawyer who can help you understand your rights and responsibilities toward your children, and help you through the process.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, some lawyers provide “unbundled” or “limited scope” services. This means you pay them to help you with part of your case.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer at all, you may be able to find legal help in other places.

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