Steps of the Custody Process

Getting started:

Overview of the custody process, by location
Every location has a different process, so we wrote up the guidelines for each location separately. Choose your location to learn more.

Filing for child custody the right way — All US states
Follow these five steps to file for child custody in your state.

Filing for custody: Full custody, visitation, etc.
Filing for custody is the first step towards getting orders to help you manage parenting apart. Here's how to file for custody, visitation, etc.

Child custody forms in all 50 US states
Find the forms and requirements for your state.

How to prepare for child custody mediation
Even before you file a child custody case, you should attend mediation with the other parent. Here's how to prepare.

Understanding family mediation & family court mediation
Family mediation suits all manner of familial disagreements. Find out how mediation helps you resolve issues amicably and how it differs from therapy.

What not to do during a custody battle: 12 tips
When you're in a custody battle, the choices you make in and out of the courtroom matter. These are the 12 things you should avoid during your case.


Best evidence for child custody cases
Evidence is the backbone of your custody case. Find out the best evidence that will support your case and get ideas for organizing it all.

How to prepare for child custody court
Don't show up to custody court without doing these eight things: reading up on laws in your state, creating a parenting plan, gathering evidence and more.

Preparing for a hearing
You'll want to be fully prepared for your first child custody hearing. These tips will help you get ready.

How to respond to a petition & summons for custody
Free templates for responding to a child custody case — with clear instructions. Also, what happens if you don't respond.

Sample declaration letter to judge for child custody
Everything you need to write a declaration letter to the judge in your custody case: an example, a downloadable template, an outline and tips.

Character reference letter: Child custody template
What parents and witnesses need to know about character reference letters to the court for child custody. Includes a downloadable example and template.

Child custody evaluations: What parents need to know
Learn about these assessments done by mental health professionals.

How Does Family Court Work? What Happens & What Can Help
Here's what you can expect when entering family court. Find out about family court jurisdiction and privacy and how you can prepare.

After a ruling:

Modifying your parenting plan, schedule or child support
Information about modifying court orders like a parenting plan, parenting time schedule and child support award.

Reasons a judge with change custody or child support
Orders for custody and child support are subject to change. Find out why the judge might modify an order and how you can get custody back.

Enforcing custody and child support orders
Here are your options for getting the other parent to comply with custody orders.

Punishments for contempt of court in family court
If one parent fails to follow a court order, the court could charge them with contempt. Here are the punishments for violating a custody or support order.

Parenting coordination: What it is, pros & cons, costs
Parenting coordination helps parents resolve disputes and follow custody orders. Information so you can see whether it's right for you and go in prepared.

Explore examples of common schedules

Explore common schedules

Join the 60,000+ other parents who have used our co-parenting tools

Organize your evidence

Track your expenses, journal what happens, and record actual time. Print organized, professional documents.

Co-parent civilly

Our parent-to-parent messaging system, which detects hostile language, lets you collaborate without the drama.

Get an accurate child support order

Child support is based on parenting time or overnights in most jurisdictions. Calculate time instead of estimating.

Succeed by negotiating

Explore options together with visual calendars and detailed parenting plans. Present alternatives and reach agreement.

Never forget an exchange or activity

Get push notifications and email reminders, sync with other calendar apps and share with the other parent.

Save up to $50,000 by avoiding court

Write your parenting agreement without lawyers. Our templates walk you through each step.

Make My Plan



Long distance schedules

Third party schedules


Summer break

Parenting provisions


How to make a schedule

Factors to consider

Parenting plans:

Making a parenting plan

Changing your plan

Interstate, long distance

Temporary plans

Guides by location:

Parenting plans

Scheduling guidelines

Child support calculators

Age guidelines:

Birth to 18 months

18 months to 3 years

3 to 5 years

5 to 13 years

13 to 18 years


Joint physical custody

Sole physical custody

Joint legal custody

Sole legal custody

Product features:

Software overview

Printable calendars

Parenting plan templates

Journal what happens

Expense sharing

Parenting time tracking

Calculate time & overnights

Ways to use:

Succeed by negotiating

Prepare for mediation

Get ready for court