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.

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.

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.


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 court: What to expect at 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.

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.