Child Custody and Family Law Forms by State

There are forms required for nearly every action in family law. You must either fill out and file the forms yourself (often called self-help), or your attorney will take charge of the process. This is especially true for determining child custody. Reviewing the forms ahead of time can help you better answer the court's and your attorney's questions.

Forms can include any document filed to the court by either party. They can include various documents such as:

  • Affidavits
  • Waivers
  • Motions for court orders
  • Parenting plans

The type of form required will depend on the state where you live and the legal issue you face.

This article has links to official family law forms and government resources for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. There is information on custody, parenting plans and agreements where available.

You may also find what you need on FindLaw's state-specific family law pages.

What Does Family Law Cover?

Family law touches several areas of major life decisions, including:

  • Marriage
  • Emancipation of minor children
  • Adoption
  • Parental rights (also called parentage)
  • Divorce
  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Name changes
  • Domestic violence protective orders

Almost all of these legal issues need completed forms. It's important to know which type of form your legal issue requires.

You can handle small claims and minor legal issues on your own. But, depending on the complexity of your legal issue, you may want to seek the help of a family law attorney. Experienced legal professionals can help you navigate the court rules of filing and ensure you meet each requirement promptly.

For more information on frequently asked family law questions, visit FindLaw's page on Family Law FAQs.

Overview: State Requirements for Filing Forms

All states have their own requirements for filing forms. You can file some forms yourself (often called self-help), while others are more legally complex and may require the help of a legal professional. If you want to be self-represented, you should research if your state has a self-help center available for assistance.

Some states may require you to file forms to the court in person, while others may allow you to e-file online. Some states offer fillable, interactive online documents. Some states may also require a filing fee or a cover sheet.

You will need to check the court rules of your state to ensure you comply with your jurisdiction's requirements. Keep in mind that there may also be local requirements to follow in addition to statewide requirements.

Filing Court Forms Generally

Separating parents must consult various resources when involved in child custody cases. They will file many documents with the family court. As a parent, it's important to know your parental rights.

When dealing with child custody or parenting plans, filing forms with the court involves specific steps. First, visit the court clerk's office or use e-filing options, if available. Pay any required filing fees to start the process. Submit the necessary forms based on your jurisdiction.

These forms might address important aspects of physical custody, such as:

  • Time-sharing
  • Support orders
  • Protective orders (in cases of child abuse or domestic violence)

Sometimes, the court may issue temporary orders while you await a final decision. Ultimately, the court's involvement aims to ensure the minor child's welfare.

Types of Custody

When parents split up, there is always the question of what decision-making powers either parent will have regarding their children. Parents may split up by various means, including legal separation and divorce. From time to time, one parent might even file for a restraining order against another parent in cases of domestic violence.

Custody is divided between:

  • Legal custody
  • Physical custody
  • Joint custody
  • Sole custody

Generally, joint custody refers to the sharing of decision-making authorities over a child.

Sole custody refers to the exclusive assignment of decision-making powers or time with a child to one parent. However, it's extremely rare for a family or probate court to remove a parent entirely from a child's life.

Legal custody refers to the right to make the major decisions in a child's life. These decisions include health care, education, and religious upbringing.

Physical custody refers to parenting time and visitation. "Parenting time" and "visitation" tend to refer to the time a parent spends with their child in person. A visitation order lays out the terms of how, when, and where a parent may spend time with their child in person.

Child custody and visitation issues can be very complicated, and FindLaw's resources on these subjects can help a great deal.

Child Support

Child support is an important part of any custody arrangement. Getting or maintaining child support can be a confusing and stressful process. For example, let's say a parent doesn't follow through with their child support order. They are not contributing to the child's welfare, as obligated by the court order. The other parent is then responsible for going through the right legal channels to get the other parent to comply.

Whatever the case, custody forms will also address the terms of child support with which you and your child's other parent must comply. There are a variety of court forms associated specifically with issues of child support. However, custody forms will still contain the stipulation of child support.

Custody Forms

As mentioned above, custody forms are used to establish the type of custody. They also establish the custody terms you and your minor child's other parent will have over your shared child. Many states have self-help centers and forms available.

Consider reviewing the following resources to locate various child custody forms:

You can also review state child custody laws, where you'll find links to the laws of every state and the District of Columbia. Some states include links to sample parenting plans or have a standard custody order with which they begin. Many have resources like a law library or information sheet available for interested parents.

However, keep in mind that custody issues can be very complicated. While these resources and links to forms may be helpful, it's always advised that you seek the assistance of an attorney.

When To Hire an Attorney for Family Law Issues

It can be a confusing and stressful process to handle any family law or custody-related issue. Consider contacting a qualified family law attorney near you today. They can assist you with any issues related to custody forms and custody in general.

Familly law attorneys can even help with child support, protective orders, adopting a child, name changes, and spousal support.

Attorneys can help you complete any family law forms required by the court system. Some court systems allow e-filing. There may be filing fees required, or there may be fee waivers available. An attorney's legal advice and legal aid will be very helpful in handling any family law matter. A good litigant can even represent you in family court if needed.

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to protect your rights.

Family Law and Child Custody Forms by State

Below you'll find links to family law forms by state, hosted by the state court's website. You will also find child custody and visitation forms for most states.

Visit FindLaw's State Family Laws section for more information and resources.









District of Columbia





















New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota





Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota







West Virginia




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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Both parents can seek custody of their children — with or without an attorney
  • An attorney can help get the custody and visitation agreement you want
  • An attorney will advocate for your rights as a parent

A lawyer can help protect your rights and your children's best interests. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Once new child custody arrangements are in place, it’s an ideal time to create or change your estate planning forms. Take the time to add new beneficiaries to your will and name a guardian for any minor children. Consider creating a financial power of attorney so your agent can pay bills and provide for your children. A health care directive explains your health care decisions and takes the decision-making burden off your children when they become adults.

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