Filing for Custody

When you come to court about custody or visitation for your child, you may have a choice: whether to file a custody petition and have your case heard in front of a Judge or court attorney-referee or to have your case referred to mediation.

If you already have a custody or visitation order for your child from Family Court, you can use the Custody/Visitation Modification DIY Program to ask the court to change the order or the Custody/Visitation Enforcement DIY Program to ask the court to enforce it if it is not being followed.


Who Can File for Custody

Anyone who has an important role in a child's life may ask the court for custody. You don't have to be the child's parent. When a Judge decides custody between a parent and someone who is not a parent, he or she will consider if there are "extraordinary circumstances" first. If there are extraordinary circumstances, then the Judge will consider what is in the best interest of the child.

The person who starts the case is called the "Petitioner." The case is against the "Respondent".


Where to File for Custody

Custody cases are usually started in Family Court. The petition should be filed in the county where the child lives. Sometimes, if the parents are married and getting a divorce, one of the parents file for custody as part of the divorce in Supreme Court. The custody order is part of the Divorce Judgment.


How Much Does It Cost

It is free to file a custody petition in Family Court. If you get a lawyer, it is your responsibility to pay for the lawyer's services.


After Filing for Custody

After filing the custody petition, the petition and summons must "served" (delivered) on the other side in person. If a non-parent is filing for custody, the petition must be served to both parents. The summons will tell both sides when and where to come to Family Court for the custody hearing.


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