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

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What is decision-making responsibility?

Decision-making responsibility is about who will make important decisions about the care of a child. A parent who has all the decision-making responsibility can make important decisions about a child’s care, education, health care, and religion. If the parents share decision-making responsibility, both parents must agree on important decisions that affect their child.

Sharing decision-making responsibility can work well if parents can communicate and work together. If your partner is abusive or controlling, you should not share decision-making responsibility.

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 to share decision-making responsibility so that they can still have some control over you, because this type of parenting plan 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.

Decision-making responsibility 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 called "parenting time". Parenting time used to be called “access”.

The terms “shared parenting” or "split parenting" are sometimes used to mean the same thing as shared decision-making responsibility. But shared and split 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.