How to Get Child Custody If a Parent Refuses to Sign the Papers

By Brenna Davis

Because child custody disputes can be contentious and stressful, family courts encourage parents to settle their disputes on their own. This not only shields the child from the stress of a custody fight, but it also allows the parents the autonomy to work out a custody plan that works with both parents' schedules and the child's needs. When one parent refuses to sign a proposed parenting plan or settle a custody dispute, however, you will need to use the court system to resolve your custody issues.

Because child custody disputes can be contentious and stressful, family courts encourage parents to settle their disputes on their own. This not only shields the child from the stress of a custody fight, but it also allows the parents the autonomy to work out a custody plan that works with both parents' schedules and the child's needs. When one parent refuses to sign a proposed parenting plan or settle a custody dispute, however, you will need to use the court system to resolve your custody issues.

Petitioning for Custody

If the other parent won't sign a custody agreement, you must petition the court to settle the matter. In many states, it is the family or superior court that handles custody proceedings. File your petition for child custody or visitation in the county where your child lives. In many states, you can access the forms you need on the court's website. The clerk may also be able to provide you with a copy of the form. Most states require that you include a parenting plan, which itemizes your proposed custody and visitation schedule, with your petition for custody.

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Types of Custody

Legal custody governs who makes decisions regarding the child, and many states have a presumption in favor of joint legal custody. Physical custody governs with whom the child lives. When one parent has sole physical custody, the other parent almost always gets some variety of visitation. In your petition, you should address both legal and physical custody. In cases where both parents have been actively involved with the child, many states require judges to consider joint custody.

Custody Hearings

After the filing of your petition, if you and your ex are still unable to agree on custody, the court will schedule a trial. The court may order you to attend mediation or counseling before the trial. Judges in all 50 states issue custody orders according to the child's best interests. Judges consider a variety of factors such as each parent's parenting competence and the relationship each parent has with the child. You must demonstrate why the custody plan you have proposed is in your child's best interest. For example, if you are petitioning for sole physical custody, you must present evidence that the child will benefit more from living with you or that the other parent is not equipped to be the child's primary caretaker.

Modifications

If there is a previous order in your custody case and your ex will not agree to change the custody plan, you may seek a custody modification. Most states require that you demonstrate a change in the child's circumstances that warrants the custody change. Explain the changed circumstances in your modification petition. Examples of changes include one parent's move, a change in the child's emotional state or a change in one parent's ability to parent.

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How to Petition for Sole Custody in New York

References

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Pennsylvania State Regulations About Proximity of Parents to Children in Divorce

Child custody and divorce cases can be highly contentious for both parties. Some parents wish to move away to avoid the stress of contact with the other parent. And, in some cases, the parent may want to move to limit the parent's contact with the child. This can be damaging to the child, and Pennsylvania custody decisions are made according to the child's best interests. Consequently, parents who wish to relocate must follow a specific procedure, and the court will not always permit relocation of the child.

Tenessee Custody Laws

Because child custody disputes often become contentious and emotionally charged, Tennessee has established specific laws governing the adjudication of these disputes. Judges treat each family as an individual unit and attempt to discern the best custody arrangement for each child. However, these arrangements are governed by state law and cannot be based on a judge's whims or prejudices.

Mississippi Joint Custody Law

In Mississippi, as in all states, custody decisions are made according to the best interests of the child. Judges may consider a number of factors, including the health and stability of each parent, attachment the child has to each parent and the child's preference. In many cases, a judge will award joint custody. There are a variety of joint custody arrangements available, but -- at minimum -- joint custody means parents share in decision-making regarding the child.

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