What Happens During a Child Custody Dispute?

Child custody disputes can be emotionally challenging experiences for parents. When the well-being of your child is at stake, it’s crucial to navigate the process with care and preparation. 

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the various stages of a child custody dispute, from initial preparations to reaching a final parenting order.

Preparation for Child Custody Court

Entering a child custody court is a significant step, and preparation is key. You must anticipate the questions the judge may ask. 

For example, if you’re a working parent, be ready to explain your child’s after-school arrangements or where they’ll sleep if you have limited space. 

Additionally, consider the important people who can support your claims, such as babysitters or teachers who can vouch for your parenting skills. Your arguments should cover aspects like the suitability of your living arrangements and your ability to provide emotional support.

 Lastly, your appearance matters; dressing in a formal and responsible manner sends a strong message.

A Small, Intimate Setting

Contrary to what television portrays, child custody proceedings usually take place in a small and intimate courtroom setting. There are very few people present in the room, and the atmosphere is less adversarial compared to other legal matters.

Limited Time Frame

Child custody cases don’t often last long due to the volume of cases that judges, mediators, and custody adjudicators handle daily. Parents must work closely with their attorneys to streamline information and make the most of their limited time in court.

Multiple Testimonies

Several parties will provide testimony during a child custody dispute, including the child (if of an appropriate age), both parents, and witnesses like school officials or social workers. These testimonies help the court gain insights into the child’s well-being and determine the best custodial arrangement.

Immediate Decision

After all parties have presented their case, the judge will make a decision based on the child’s best interests. This decision will shape the parenting order and may include custody, visitation, and other relevant aspects.

Steps in a Child Custody Dispute

Step 1: Try Mediation

Mediation is often the first step in resolving a child custody dispute. Parents can engage in private or court-connected mediation to reach a parenting plan agreement. This process encourages open communication and can help avoid a protracted legal battle. Seek legal advice before participating in mediation.

Step 2: Apply for a Case

If mediation doesn’t work out, you can move on to applying for a case. To initiate one, apply for a parenting order. 

If you’re going through a divorce, make sure there are no pending divorce cases involving you in Canada before proceeding. This step may take several weeks to complete.

Step 3: Serve the Respondent

You need to make sure that the other party in the case receives copies of the filed forms. This is known as serving court documents. If you filed for joint divorce, this step may be skipped. The respondent typically has 30 days to respond to your application.

Step 4: Mandatory Information Program (MIP) Session

Both parents must attend a free MIP session before the first court date or within 45 days of opening the case. This session provides essential information about the impact of separation, alternative dispute resolution, the court process, legal issues like child support, and available resources.

Step 5: First Court Date

Depending on the court, this may be a case conference or a first appearance. It involves meeting with a court clerk to ensure all necessary forms and documents are filed. In some cases, a Dispute Resolution Officer may assist in reaching an agreement.

Step 6: Attend Conferences

Conferences address administrative aspects of the case and may include case conferences, settlement conferences, and trial management conferences. They provide opportunities to resolve disputes and plan for trial if necessary.

Step 7: Attend Trial

If a settlement is not reached, the case proceeds to trial. During the trial, both parents present evidence to support their desired parenting arrangements. 

The judge evaluates the arguments and evidence before making a decision in the child’s best interests.

Get a Final Parenting Order

Step 8: Get a Final Parenting Order

The final parenting order outlines the arrangements for raising the child after the dispute. This order stands until a successful appeal, court-approved modification, or the child reaches adulthood. If an agreement was reached and submitted, it becomes part of the final order.


In conclusion, child custody disputes are complex and emotionally charged processes. It’s crucial to approach them with preparation and legal guidance. 

If you’re in need of Family Lawyers in Edmonton, KBL Law is here to support you throughout this journey, ensuring the best possible outcome for you and your child. 

Remember that understanding the process and seeking professional assistance are essential steps toward resolving child custody matters effectively. Reach out to us to navigate your legal family matters. 

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