I am a Zambian living in Canada . I met my son's father, we fell in love, had a child, got engaged, and then things didn’t work out so we separated.

In fear of me leaving Canada, he filed for joint custody and requested for the passport of my son to be in his possession. For more context, I am here alone in Canada, with no other family.

My son's father is not paying any child support and barely sees him. I am struggling financially and I need my village to help raise my child. I have been in Canada for 6 years, working and raising my child on my own but now it’s becoming overwhelming. Especially with inflation to add.

I did speak to him about leaving to go back to Zambia and giving me the passport. He refused to give it to me. Mind you, he doesn’t pay any child support and sees his son every 3-4 months.

I feel trapped.

What to do next? Even if I file for full custody, I do not have the extra funds to hire a family lawyer right now. And the job search for better employment is hell.

  • 15
    It certainly sounds like a rough situation, but I’m voting to close this question because 1. it seems to be a relationship issue and 2. there's no specific question. Please edit this to include one parenting issue (i.e. about raising your child) that is not primarily opinion based (e.g. a non-specific "What can I do?") Thanks. Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 7:01
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    What is the ultimate goal here? Do you want to move back to Zambia, or do you want to resolve the issues with the finances and lack of support? To put it differently, if you were to land a well-paying job and you found a proverbial "Canadian village" to help raise your child; would you abandon the plan to move back to Zambia? Understanding your key goal here will help in figuring out which approach best enables that goal.
    – Flater
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 0:12
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    What is your immigration status in Canada? This may be pertinent to the answers you receive. Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 11:13
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    Interestingly, people on the Travel site seem to be very knowledgeable about immigration rules and restrictions, and may be able to answer some aspects of this question. Law.se would probably be the other good place I can think of.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 16:08
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    @T.E.D. Expatriates Stack Exchange might be a more appropriate place to ask. I think Travel is more intended to small trip™
    – Clockwork
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 20:39

2 Answers 2


In a shared custody situation, it is kidnapping for one parent to move the child across an international border without the other parent's permission. It is a very common type of kidnapping, and as such border officers are on the look-out for it. Even if you can get permission from your child's father, there will be other things you need his cooperation for as long as he continues to have joint custody. As difficult as it may be, you need to try and get sole custody in your situation.

Probably the thing to fix first is that your child's father is not paying child support. If you already have a court order stipulating that he should pay and he just isn't, the "Family Maintenance Enforcement Program" is meant to make him do it for you. If you don't have a court order yet, you'll need to get one. Since this is such a routine problem, I expect that there should be local legal support available, maybe via some charity or as a community-outreach programme of a law school. In the UK, the government would just pay the child support to you and go after the father for reimbursement, but unfortunately Canada doesn't seem to do that.

Legal proceedings aside, you may also be able to find people to share the parenting-burden with in your local community. Bonding over parenting similarly-aged children is a very common way to make new friends. Arrangements where you exchange looking after each others' children could ease the stress of juggling everything.

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    Note, however, that child support likely works against the intention of moving abroad with the child (getting dad to financially contribute and taking the child away from him?). The main question here is what the goal is. If the financial issues subside, does OP intend to stay in Canada, or are they intending to move back to Zambia for reasons that cannot be resolved by other means (such as wanting to be near family)? If the latter, then it seems better to seek sole custody without asking for child support. If the former, then it might be easier to pursue child support as the primary goal.
    – Flater
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 0:09
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    @Flater The father of the child owing child support is independent of him sharing custody. The child no longer living in Canada could mean that Canadian law no longer applies, but that is far from certain.
    – Arno
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 8:52
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    I believe it's against the law for someone to withhold a passport. "about leaving to go back to Zambia and giving me the passport. He refused to give it to me." Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 18:12
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    @HannoverFist It may be illegal for someone to withhold your passport, but it's different with parents of minor children. Each parent has the same rights unless a court order says differently. Many court orders will say which parent holds the children's passports and under what circumstances it's given to the other parent, or when and where and for how long each parent can take the kids out of the country. The father did nothing illegal here unless there's a court order saying that she should hold the passport. Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 18:30

You can get legal help if you don't have much money. If you're in Ontario, contact Legal Aid Ontario. Other provinces will have similar programs.

If your son was born and raised in Canada, it may be an uphill battle to ask a court to allow you to move back to Zambia, especially if his father is here and there is some contact with him, even if not much. That's not to say it would never happen, but the burden of proof is on you to show why it is in the child's best interests for you to move with him back to Zambia.

If there's no court order for child support yet, that will be easy to get. It's one of the first steps in Family Court and it's based on a standard calculation. If he decides not to pay, it can be enforced (in Ontario by the Family Responsibility Office).

I think your first step needs to be to talk to a lawyer.

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