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How To: File a Petition

In Family Court, an individual or agency may start a proceeding by the filing of a petition. The person bringing the action is called the Petitioner. The person whom the action is against is called the Respondent. A petition is a written description of the circumstances of the case. You may find a blank copy of a petition by clicking on this link: (link to forms) or you may go to your local Family Court Clerk’s office. Each county has a Family Court, most are open between the hours of 9 am to 5 pm weekdays. You will need to know what relief you are asking the court to provide, some examples are requests for custody or visitation. If you fill out the petition at the clerk’s office, you will be asked for picture identification and to swear if everything on the petition is true and accurate - this is called notarization. If you fill out the petition from the on-line forms you will need to have it notarized before sending it to the court. Once the clerk’s office files the petition, notices or summonses are sent out to the parties directing them to appear in court on a certain date and time or you may receive papers with directions to arrange for service of the papers on the other party depending upon the case type and individual court practice. If you are the petitioner and do not appear, the case may be dismissed. If you are the respondent and do not appear, the judge may grant the petitioner’s request.

Different case types have different filing requirements. For specific information, go to the case type link (link to case type explanations) and read more, or contact your local Family Court Clerk’s office.

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