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Types of Cases in Which a Parent Can Ask for Child Custody

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1.  If the parents are married or in a registered domestic partnership
If you are married to the other parent, or in a registered domestic partnership, you can ask for child custody and visitation orders if you are also filing for:

  • Divorce (“Dissolution”)/Legal Separation/Annulment
    You can ask for child custody and visitation orders when you file for a divorce, annulment, or legal separation. Opens new window You can get temporary orders for child custody while you are waiting for the final judgment in your divorce case. (See the following pages to learn how to do this.)
  • Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Child
    If you don't want to get a divorce, legal separation, or annulment, you can start a court case by filing a:

    •  Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children (Form FL-260) Opens new window
       See the instructions Opens new window for this form.

    By opening a case in this way, the court can make child custody orders and other orders. 

2.  If the parents are not married or in a registered domestic partnership
If you are NOT married to the other parent, or in a registered domestic partnership, you can ask for child custody and visitation orders in these kinds of cases:

  • Parentage Case
    A parentage case is for parents who are not married and have children together. It establishes who the legal parents of a child are. The judge can make child custody and visitation orders in a parentage case. (See the “Parentage” section on this website for information about establishing parentage.)
  • Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children
    If you have signed a Declaration of PaternityOpens new window you can open a court case to request custody and visitation orders by filing a:

    • Petition for Custody and Support of Minor Children (Form FL-260) Opens new window
      See the instructions Opens new window for this form.

3.  Domestic Violence Restraining Order
If you have been a victim of domestic violence, you can ask for child custody when you ask for a domestic violence restraining order.

4.  Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) Enforcement Case
If you have a child support case filed by the Department of Child Support Services, you may be able to ask for custody and visitation orders once paternity has been established and both parents are involved in the case. 


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