Custody Paternity & Child Support
How to File for Custody Together
If you and the other parent do not have a custody case but are in agreement on all of the following, you may be able to file a joint petition for custody:
- You agree on legal custody and physical custody of the children;
- You agree on a timeshare / visitation schedule for the children;
- You agree on child support;
- You agree on who will provide medical insurance; and
- You agree on who will claim the children for tax purposes.
If you and the other parent can reach an agreement on all of the issues above, you can sign and notarize a full agreement and file together for a custody order. You likely will not have to appear in court since judges often approve these decrees without a hearing.
When you file a Joint Petition, you give up certain rights that you would otherwise have:
- The right to appeal.
- Notice of Entry of Decree (this triggers deadlines for an appeal, but since you are waiving the right to appeal, you do not need the formal Notice of Entry).
- The right to request that the judge make certain findings of fact and conclusions of law relating to your agreement in the Joint Petition.
- The right to move for a new trial.
Follow the steps below to get a Joint Decree of Custody.
1. Fill out the forms. There are several forms both parents must fill out and sign.
2. File the forms. Turn in your completed forms at the District Court.
3. Turn in the decree to the judge. Submit the final decree for the judge to review.
Make sure you understand the basic concepts before filling out any forms. Visit the Child Custody Overview page to learn about the law and the legal requirements.
ALL OF THE FOLLOWING DOCUMENTS MUST BE COMPLETED to file a Joint Petition for Custody:
Cover Sheet - required
This form asks for basic information about you, the other parent, and the children.
Confidential Information Sheet - required
This form discloses both parents'' social security numbers (which is required for everyone) and helps parents with child support enforcement in the future if needed.
Joint Petition for Custody - required
The Joint Petition tells the judge how you and the other parent have agreed to settle the issues. It includes your full agreement to everything, such as custody, visitation, child support, and medical insurance. You and the other parent must complete every section, and you both must sign the Joint Petition in front of a notary.
If you and the other parent cannot agree on everything in this form, you may have to file on your own. See Filing for Custody on Your Own for more information.
Request for Submission - required
This form asks the judge to review your case without a hearing.
Decree of Custody - required
The judge will sign the Decree when your agreement is approved. Both parents must complete and sign the Decree before the judge can sign.
After you fill out the papers above, you will need to file them with the district court in your county. Visit Find My Court if you are not sure where your local district court is located.
The court will charge you a filing fee to file your papers. The fee is different in every county. Find out from your local court what the filing fee will be.
If you cannot afford the filing fee, please see Filing Fees and Waivers to find out how to apply to waive the fee.
Attach a filed copy of the Joint Petition (with the case number and filing date) to the Decree.
Find out from your local court how to turn these papers in to the judge.
The judge will review your papers, and if everything is completed properly and the judge approves of your agreement, the judge will sign your Decree. The judge's staff might call you when the Decree is signed so you can pick it up and file it yourself, or the judge's staff might send the Decree to one of the parents in the mail.
Whoever gets the final Decree is responsible for the following:
- Make sure the Decree is "filed" at the Clerk's office, since the filing date is the effective date of the separate maintenance. Some judges file the Decree for you, and some expect you to file it yourself. If you receive a decree that has a date on the upper right corner of the first page, the Decree is already filed. But if you receive the original Decree with no markings on the first page, it will be your job to file it at the Clerk's Office.
- Mail a copy of the filed Decree to the other person. After mailing, fill out a Certificate of Mailing and file it with the court to prove that both parties have a copy.