How to Withdraw a Petition for Child Custody

By Cindy Chung

Updated July 21, 2017

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The procedures to obtain child custody depend on the laws of each state. Parents generally decide on child custody arrangements as part of their divorce, or as a separate legal matter if they are unmarried. If they cannot reach an agreement together, one or both parents may ask for a court order. However, an individual can decide to withdraw a petition or complaint for child custody after originally filing the paperwork. A lawyer or social worker may be able to help a party with the decision to withdraw a petition for child custody.

Identify the procedures to withdraw a petition or complaint used by the same local court where you initially filed your child custody paperwork. Contact the court clerk's office for information on withdrawal procedures. Find out whether the court provides a specific family law form that you must use to make your request.

Prepare the required form or other written request to withdraw your petition — for example, some courts ask for a Praecipe to Withdraw the Petition, which is a court filing telling the court that you would like to withdraw your original child custody petition and cancel any scheduled hearings about the issue. Submit your withdrawal request in writing at the court overseeing your child custody case. Provide copies of your withdrawal paperwork to all other interested parties as mandated by the rules regarding service of legal documents in your state.

Alternatively, attend the next scheduled court date for your child custody case and tell the judge that you would like to withdraw your petition, but only if your local court allows you to withdraw in person during a court hearing. Explain to the court why you have changed your mind about child custody and ask to withdraw your petition. Follow up with any further instructions given to you by the court.


Consult with a local family law attorney who can tell you about your state's child custody laws and explain the consequences of withdrawing your petition.

Ask for free or low-cost help from a legal aid services provider or pro bono program if you cannot afford to hire a private attorney.

Some courts use the term "petition" to refer to a court filing for child custody, while other courts use the term "complaint."


Follow all court deadlines and required procedures; otherwise, your family law case could result in unintended consequences.