This page is for people who have already filed a custody case, completed all required steps, and need to finalize the case.
If neither you or the other parent has filed a case yet, you must first File for Custody and follow all of the required steps. Do not use the forms on this page until you have filed a case and are ready to finish the custody case.
The final step in a custody or paternity case is having a judge sign a final decree. This is the document that includes all of the final custody, visitation, and child support orders.
How a Final Custody/Paternity Order is Granted
There are three different ways that a final custody order is usually granted:
By Default: If the Defendant was served with the summons and complaint, but did not file any paperwork within 21 days, the Plaintiff can ask the court to enter a default and grant a final custody order. The Plaintiff may have to go to a short hearing with the judge to have the final custody orders approved. If granted, the Plaintiff will typically get a Custody Decree that includes everything asked for in the complaint. Follow ALL of the steps below if you would like to get a Default Custody Decree.
By Agreement: If both parties reach an agreement on all terms after the case has been filed, they can prepare a final Custody Decree together with their full agreement included. Both parties must sign the Custody Decree, and can usually submit the Decree to the judge for approval without a hearing. Start at Step 2 below if this applies to you.
Granted at a Trial or Hearing: When the judge grants a final custody order at a trial or a hearing, the judge will decide all of the final orders. However, the case is not final until the written Custody Decree is signed by the judge. Usually, the judge tells one party to “prepare the decree.” Start at Step 3 below if you are finalizing a custody order after a trial or hearing.
You are responsible for preparing the final Decree to finish your case. The steps below explain the different forms you must fill out and steps you must take in order to get the final Custody Decree approved.
Steps to Getting the Final Decree
All of the possible steps to get a final Custody Decree are explained below. You may not need to follow all of the steps depending on what happened in your case leading up to the final decree. Read each step carefully and follow the instructions if they apply to you.
Step 1. Prepare the Paperwork
The following forms must be completed to get your final Custody Decree:
Default. If Defendant did not file any paperwork within 21 days of being served, you first have to ask the Clerk of Court to enter a default against the Defendant. The Plaintiff must complete the default and bring it to the Clerk’s Office for approval.
FYI!The default requires you to include the date that Defendant was served. Look on the Affidavit of Service to find this date. If Defendant was served by publication, the date of service is usually the last date listed under the publication dates on the Affidavit of Publication.
- Request for Submission. If you want a Custody Decree without having a hearing, fill out this form. This form asks the judge to approve of the Decree without a hearing. Only one party needs to complete these forms (usually the Plaintiff).
- Child Support and Welfare Identification Form.
This form is required, and helps with child support enforcement in the future if needed.
The Decree. The decree is the final order that includes all the final orders. How you fill out the decree will depend on how you are getting the final decree:
- If you are getting a Default Decree: Everything in your proposed decree should match everything you asked for in your complaint.
- If both parties are signing the Decree: The decree must include all of the agreements between you and the other parent. You both must sign the decree.
- If you are submitting a Decree based on a hearing or trial: Everything in your proposed decree must match everything the judge ordered at your hearing. Make sure the proposed decree includes everything the judge ordered. The Custody Decree below includes all final custody, visitation, and child support orders.
Custody Decree (pdf fillable) Custody Decree (pdf)
If you only need a paternity order to update a birth certificate: Complete the Paternity Order below. This will make changes to the name of the father and/or the name of the child, and can be used to get a new birth certificate issued.
Step 2. Submit the Documents to the Court
File all the documents above, except the Custody Decree, with the court. Submit the original Custody Decree and two copies to the judge.
Step 3. Wait for the Decree
The judge will review the decree, and if everything is completed properly, the judge will sign the decree. The judge's staff might call you when the decree is ready so you can pick it up and file it yourself, or the judge's staff might send it to you in the mail (it is usually mailed to the person who filled out the upper left corner of the first page). Make sure the decree is "filed" at the clerk's office.
Step 4. File a Notice of Entry of Order
The date this form gets filed is the date that starts the timelines for anyone to appeal. After you receive the signed and filed final Custody Decree, you must fill out the Notice of Entry of Order and attach a copy of the Custody Decree.
File the Notice of Entry of Order (with a copy of the Decree attached) with the court. Be sure to fill out the Certificate of Mailing at the bottom, because you will have to mail a copy of this form to the other party the same day you file it.
Make a copy of the Notice of Entry of Order (with the Decree attached) and mail it to the other party. You can mail it by regular mail.