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I do not need a custody order right away

Produced by Attorney Jeff Wolf for MassLegalHelp
Created February 2017

You can go to the Probate and Family Court in the county where you live or to the Probate and Family Court in the county where the other parent lives. You need to file a form called a "complaint."

The complaint you file depends on if you are married to the other parent.

If you are married to the other parent

You can ask the court for a custody order by filing:

  • a Complaint for Divorce if you want to divorce your spouse. On the complaint form there is a box you can check to ask for custody of your child.

    image of a complaint for divorce with section for asking for custody circled

  • a Complaint for Separate Support if you live apart from your spouse or you want to live apart from your spouse and stay married. On the complaint form there is a box you can check to ask for custody of your child.

    image of a complaint for separate support with section for asking for custody circled

If you are not married to the other parent

Your child needs to have a legal father before the court can decide custody.

Complaint for Custody-Support-Parenting Time

Use this form to ask the court for custody if your child has a legal father. There is a box on the form you can check to ask for custody of your child.

Section of 209C custody support parenting time complaint that asks for custody

File a Complaint for Custody - Support - Parenting Time if:

See Complaint for Custody-Support-Parenting Time – Filing a Case

Complaint to Establish Paternity to ask the court for custody

File a Complaint to Establish Paternity to ask the court to name your child’s legal father. At the same time you can check the box to ask for custody of your child. First, the court has to decide who the legal father is. After that, the court will decide custody.

Section of paternity complaint that asks for custody

File a Complaint to Establish Paternity if:

  1. the father’s name is not on your child’s birth certificate; and
  2. there is no court judgment that he is the father.

See Establishing Paternity in Court.

Remember

If you are the mother and there is no court order about custody, you have sole legal and physical custody.  See Who has Custody?

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