How do I file for child custody in New York?

Buffalo during the holiday season may be cold, but it can also be festive and fun. This year's celebrations may not be as enjoyable, however, if you are preoccupied with reaching a custody arrangement. No doubt, child custody has been on your mind a lot if you are a divorcing parent—especially during the holidays.

Amicable divorces can work out well for some couples, but for others they are just not possible. In cases that will go to court, there is one major step that you will have to take: Filing for custody. Negotiating the particulars of your arrangement can be stressful, but the filing process does not have to be if you know the details in advance. Here, we will go over the basics of filing for custody in New York State.

Filing for child custody

  • The first step in filing for custody in New York is to submit a petition to the court. A petition is essentially a request for the court to hear your case.
  • You may file a petition with county Family Court or with the state Supreme Court; petitioning for custody in Family Court is free, while in the Supreme Court it costs money. If you are submitting your petition to Family Court, then you should go to the courthouse that is located in the county where your child lives. This is the court that will be handling custodial matters.
  • Obtain the proper documents: You can download these online, print them, and fill them out, or you may go to the courthouse and request the paperwork there.
  • A clerk at the courthouse will ask for your identification as well as any filing fees. If you have any questions about the paperwork, the clerk can also answer your questions.
  • Then, you will officially file the petition with the court. Your petition will be stamped by the clerk and assigned a case number.
  • After you have filed your petition, you must also serve the petition and summons to the other party—in this case, your spouse. The summons will inform you and your spouse of the date, time and location of your custody hearing.
  • Finally, your child custody case will appear in Family Court before a judge, who will issue a custody decree.

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