How to File for Child Custody Without a Lawyer

by Charlie Gaston

Dealing with a divorce is never easy. In fact, the process can be downright complicated. But thanks to legal forms available on the Web, a parent can file a motion for custody without the aid of an attorney. The easy-to-use forms can be obtained online at no charge and must be filled out completely for the motion to be filed. There are even online help desks and banks of frequently asked questions to assist in the process.

Determine the child custody petition that is appropriate for your case. For example, the state of California provides the following options: Forms to set up custody/visitation with a petition for custody and support of minor children; forms to set up or change a custody/visitation order by agreement; and forms to set up or change a custody/visitation order, including forms to set up or change your child support order. Child custody forms vary by state and can be found on the Find Law website.

File for guardianship with the Superior Court. In California, a petition for guardianship must be filed with the Superior Court of California.

File the appropriate forms to start the case toward legal custody. An attorney is not required, and all legal forms can be obtained online by visiting the official website for the State Court or Superior Court where you reside.

Make a motion to change any existing visitation or custody arrangements. Request a mediator to review the case and then offer evidence to support your petition. A judge will rule based on the motion filed in court, the mediator's review and any other information related to the financial support each parent is able to provide as well as the overall safety of the child.

Provide documentation to support any "significant change" in circumstance if a temporary custody or visitation order or agreement is already in place. Examples would be if your ex-spouse lost his job or was found in violation of that agreement. Document any suspicions of abuse or neglect.

Items you will need

  • Court forms


  • Be as detailed as possible when filing child custody forms.


  • Never make false allegations against an ex-spouse to obtain full custody of a child.

About the Author

Charlie Gaston has written numerous instructional articles on topics ranging from business to communications and estate planning. Gaston holds a bachelor's degree in international business and a master's degree in communications. She is fluent in Spanish and has extensive travel experience.

Photo Credits