The decision to file for child custody is a difficult one. It’s a commitment that you consider the lifelong well-being of your children and the potential impacts of change on every facet of their lives and family dynamics.
How to File for Child Custody
1. Determine Custody Option
Decide with which parent your children should primarily reside. Consider factors such as proximity to the other parent (for continued visits), religion, and the school system. As you make this decision, you must be aware of all of your options at the time of filing. There is a legal presumption of “joint physical custody” in some states unless one parent objects.
2. Determine Custody Agreement
The goal of the custody agreement or at least a large portion of it is to outline how you and your spouse will live, co-parent, and maintain contact with each other. While custody agreements are not binding on the court, they are very important documents that can be used to solidify your case.
3. Obtain Legal Representation
If you choose to file for child custody, it is strongly recommended that you consult an attorney who has experience with family law cases. It can be not very pleasant when one party does not abide by the agreed-upon arrangements, and having a lawyer on your side can make a difference in how quickly and effectively your case is handled.
4. File Petition with Court
In most states, the party who files the petition is the petitioner, while the other parent is known as the respondent. The petitioner files a petition in family court, accompanied by a summons that notifies the respondent (the other parent) that a hearing will be held and requests their attendance. The Summons should be served in person or by certified mail.
5. Serve Summons
The citation to the family court is then served on the respondent. The recipient of a properly issued citation should then appear in court as requested, completing any required paperwork and handing over any relevant information.
6. Make an Appointment with Court Clerk
Typically, both parties are allowed to address the court about their custody plan and make a series of suggestions for how to proceed.
The firm’s name — FIDE Law — is an acronym for Family-Immigration-Debt-Employment. FIDE stands for fidelity, confidence, and trust. We are a small, friendly firm serving hundreds of clients throughout Virginia, Maryland, and the Washington D.C. area. We’re a law firm dedicated to defending your rights and fighting for you and your family. Our fully bilingual staff (Spanish-English) is ready to help and guide you in every step of your case.
Every case is different, and there are no guarantees about the outcome. Like many family law matters, no answer fits all situations. A good attorney can help you understand your options and develop a plan that suits your individual needs. Our Virginia law firm will fight for you and your rights in court at low, affordable prices.