What Is the Purpose of an Affidavit in a Custody Case?

By Timothy James

An affidavit is a specific type of legal document filed by people who have information relevant to a court matter. Courts often rely upon written, notarized and voluntarily submitted affidavits to help them decide child custody matters. Since state laws govern family law matters such as divorce and child custody, the forms you'll need to file when you petition for child custody can vary from state to state.

Basic Information

Many states require a person seeking custody of a child to file an affidavit that contains little more than basic information. In Massachusetts, for instance, any party who seeks custody of a child must complete an Affidavit Disclosing Care or Custody Proceeding. This form asks the person who is requesting custody to list the names of the children whose custody is at issue, the addresses of all relevant parties, and provide other basic legal pertaining to the case.

Relevant Facts

While some state family courts ask people seeking custody to fill out an affidavit that is little more than a form, others require them to provide relevant facts that might justify an award of custody. People filing this kind of affidavit should not include opinion, irrelevant facts or legal argument. They must not mention settlement negotiations, nor should they mention rumors they've heard from others. They should simply state the relevant facts in a neutral tone.

Get help changing your legal name. Learn More


Some state courts accept affidavits from people who are not seeking custody of the child. If properly prepared, these affidavits, which are sort of like letters to the court, can provide the court with important information. An affidavit filed to support another person's claim of custody should take a neutral tone, because judges tend to disregard affidavits that seem overly opinionated. People submitting an affidavit should begin by providing the judge with their background and connection to the case. Then they should list facts the judge might consider relevant.

Child Affidavits

A child may file an affidavit with the court stating that he prefers to live with a particular party. Usually, the child must reach a particular age before filing such an affidavit. For example, in Texas, the child must reach the age of 10. A child's affidavit can carry great weight with the parties seeking custody and the judge. Children can communicate their wishes by speaking directly with a judge in the judge's chambers in some states.

Modifying a Custody Order

The party can also file an affidavit in support of a motion to modify custody. Depending on the state, these affidavits can contain either basic personal information or they can contain substantive information. In the latter case, the affidavit often must explain exactly why the court should alter the child's current custody arrangement. For example, in Oregon, a parent might argue that the other parent is guilty of gross moral misconduct, that the parent is unstable, or that the child is endangered in the care of the other parent.

Get help changing your legal name. Learn More
How to Write an Affidavit for Guardianship


Related articles

What Is in a "Character Letter" for a Child Custody Court Hearing?

In a child custody case, judges and custody evaluators assess what arrangement is in the child’s best interests. To assess the best interests of the child, the court may consider the character of each parent and their ability to meet the child’s needs. A character letter can serve as a type of evidence attesting to a parent’s fitness. Most often, custody character letters are employed in contested cases, such as divorces where one parent is seeking sole custody and the other wants joint custody.

How to Petition the Court for Custody

Custody of a child generally gives an adult the right to provide for the minor's daily care and education. This custody can be legal, physical or both. Physical custody can be either full-time or be divided with another parent or caregiver. While a child's natural parents are the most common parties to petition for custody of a child, in some instances, grandparents or other relatives with close relationships may share custody with a parent who is hospitalized or incarcerated. Likewise, if a child's relative raised a child for a significant portion of her life, that relative may have a claim to custody if a parent becomes ill or unable to care for the child. To request legal custody of a minor child, you generally will need to petition the court and attend a hearing in front of a judge. That said, the exact process for petitioning the court for custody varies between jurisdictions, so it is important to understand your state's law before beginning any legal proceedings.

How to Obtain Legal Custody of a Minor Child in San Francisco, California, in a Low Income Family

A parent who needs a court order for child custody in San Francisco can file the paperwork at San Francisco Superior Court. The procedures and legal standards in San Francisco follow the California state laws with regard to child custody. Each parent should know the rights given by state law and may need to consult with a California attorney who handles family law cases in San Francisco. A low-income family can seek legal help through the court or a local nonprofit serving San Francisco residents.

Doing the right thing has never been easier. Name Change

Related articles

How to Make an Outline for Witnesses in a Child Custody Case

In a child custody hearing or trial, witnesses often provide the judge with additional information or clarify legal ...

How to Petition for Custody

The best interests of the child is the standard family courts use to determine custody throughout the United States. ...

How to File for Custody of a Minor in Mobile, Alabama

Custody disputes commonly arise as the result of divorce or paternity proceedings. The Alabama legislature has enacted ...

Forms to File for a Paternity Lawsuit

A paternity lawsuit is a legal proceeding that asks a court to determine whether a man is the biological father of a ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED