How to File a Motion in an Existing Child Custody Case

By Valerie Stevens

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A motion is the legal device used to ask the court to change something when a lawsuit already exists. While a petition or complaint starts a lawsuit, a motion seeks immediate action. A motion can be filed to seek child support while a divorce is pending, for example. After a divorce is granted, a motion can be filed to try to modify the visitation schedule set at the time of the final hearing.

Contact the clerk of court in your county to find out if there is a motion form and a cover sheet that you can use to file your motion. Inquire also about the filing fee.

Draft a statement to go with the motion form if a form is available, or draft a motion that condenses what you want and why you want it. For instance, if you are asking that the child visitation schedule be changed because you have moved to a different state, be specific and tell the court exactly when you want to have visitation. If you are paying child support and moved to take a better paying job, point this out.

Try to condense your arguments into a couple of pages. Eliminate unnecessary negative comments about the other party. Stick to the facts and be specific about what you want and why it is in the best interest of the child.

File the motion with the court clerk. Request a hearing date when you file your motion, if possible. It is easier to notify the other party of a hearing date at the same time as you serve your motion if you have the date.

Serve your motion on the other party by certified mail or by hiring a process server to personally deliver the motion to the other party.

File proof of service with the court to show that you have informed the other party. If you send the motion to the other party by certified mail, keep the green receipt from the U.S. Postal Service and attach it to a piece of paper with the green card when it is returned to show that you have successfully served the other party. File this proof with the court. If you use a process server, complete a certificate of service or other form available in your state.