COVID-19: Get updates on the law and legal services on Steps to Justice

Change font size:


  • Increase
  • Decrease
  • Normal

Current Zoom: 100%

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

Step 1: Choose language Step 2: Choose from available formats and options
Available formats and options

What is custody?

Custody is about who will make important decisions about the care of a child. A parent who has sole custody can make important decisions about a child's care, education, health care, and religion. If the parents have joint custody, both parents must agree on important decisions that affect their child.

For joint custody to work well, parents have to be able to communicate and work together. If your partner is abusive or controlling, you should not agree to joint custody.

Your lawyer needs to know about the abuse in your relationship so that they can explain why an order or agreement might not be appropriate if your partner will use it to intimidate or threaten you. Arrangements need to be very clear.

Abusers might want joint custody so that they can still have some control over you, because joint custody forces you to agree before making major decisions about your child. This can include things like where your child goes to school, where they go to the dentist, and if your child can go out of the country.

Custody is not about who your child lives with, which is sometimes called "residence". It is also not about how much time your child spends with each of you, which is sometimes called "access" or "parenting time".

The terms "shared parenting" or "co-parenting" are sometimes used to mean the same thing as joint custody. But shared parenting is about the amount of time each parent spends with a child. Be sure you understand what is being suggested before you agree to it.