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Do you know a woman who is being abused? A legal rights handbook

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How do I get decision-making responsibility for the children?

Whether you stay in the home with your children or take them with you when you leave, you need to speak to a family lawyer right away about decision-making responsibility. If you have to leave your community because your partner might hurt you or your children, you might be able to apply for decision-making responsibility in the area you have moved to. Many courthouses may help you with decision-making responsibility issues right away if you can show that a delay could harm either you or your children.

If your children are living with your partner when you go to court and get an order for decision-making responsibility, you can ask the court to order the police to bring the children to your home.

If you are legally married and want decision-making responsibility for your children, but do not want to leave your home, you might need to get an order for exclusive possession. It is more difficult to get this order if you are not legally married. But, you might be able to get a restraining order that has the same effect.

Exclusive possession: a court order that says one partner can stay in, or return to, the home and the other partner is not allowed on the property. If there are children, the order usually also says that the children are allowed on the property. The order is usually temporary. The court doesn't decide who owns the home or who rented it when deciding which partner can stay in it.

Restraining order: a court order that says what your partner cannot do. For example, the order might say where he cannot go, or who he cannot contact.