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How To File For Child Custody

As painful as a family fracture can be, the focus has to be the welfare of the child. Make the change as trouble-free as you can.


  • TIP: A separation agreement will often be accepted by the judge, who can modify it in the interest of the child.
  • Step 1: Pay filing fees to the court or through your attorney. Check about fee waiver arrangements if you cannot pay the costs immediately.
  • Step 2: Win in court to retain custody. Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act, a former partner cannot file for custody under other state laws.
  • FACT: In 2008, 26 percent of American children were living with one parent.
  • Step 3: Issue a temporary restraining order through local authorities if you fear the other parent or guardian may flee with the child.
  • TIP: Depending on jurisdiction, you may have to file for custody in the state where the child has resided for the previous six months.
  • Step 4: Consult with a family attorney, whether you engage one for the custody case or to consult if you navigate alone.
  • Step 5: Acquire the paperwork and forms. They can be found online or at the court in your county that handles custody cases.
  • Step 6: File through tax agencies if they have been approved by the court. You can fax the paperwork, but usually cannot set a hearing date over the phone.
  • Step 7: Decide whether to file yourself or hire a family law attorney. If you do it yourself you will have to know the procedures for filing during temporary custody, including timelines and court appearances.

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