4. Go to court

Can my child decide who they want to live with?
This question has an answer and 4 steps

4. Go to court

If you and your partner still cannot agree on custody and access or whether your child's wishes should be followed, even with the help of a family law professional, or if this is not the right option for you, 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.

A judge looks at the facts of your situation and the best interests of the child test to make decisions about custody, access, and parenting. Judges usually assume it’s better for a child to have a relationship with both parents after they separate or divorce.

Judges generally don't let children testify in court because they know this can be a scary experience for a child. It can also be very difficult for a child, especially if they are forced to testify against one parent.

If the judge needs the testimony of the child or evidence of the child’s views and wishes to help them decide, the judge can:

  • Ask the Office of the Children's Lawyer to get involved and prepare a custody and access assessment.
  • Ask to speak to the child alone in their office.
  • Ask the child to meet with a lawyer or social worker who prepares a voice of the child report, if the child is over the age of 7. This report gives information about what the child thinks about things like where they should live, go to school, and access arrangements. It is different from an assessment because it does not give the professional’s opinion on what is best for the child.

You can talk to a lawyer who can help you understand what the law says about custody and access and your child's rights.

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.

You May Also Need

Office of the Children's Lawyer
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario)
Reviewed: July 15, 2019

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