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Parenting and Custody

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If you are no longer living with the other parent, you need a custody order that will lay out the rules of the road for each of you.


A history of domestic violence between you and the other parent can affect the custody or visitation arrangement for your children. The law presumes that the parent who committed the domestic violence might not get custody and visitation unless he or she meets certain requirements. These may include completing a batterer’s intervention or substance abuse treatment program. To find domestic violence, the law does not require the existence of a protective order or criminal charges. The divorce or custody judge may ask about domestic violence. If there has been domestic violence, you should talk with a lawyer about how this law will impact your case.

What does a custody order include?

A custody order usually includes the following which is also called a "parenting plan" which should be based on what arrangement is in the child’s best interests:

There are two ways a custody order happens:

Hopefully you can reach a settlement with the other parent, but if that is impossible, the matter will go to trial for the judge to make the final decision.

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What are the "best interest factors" that are used to figure out a parenting plan?

The court determines custody (also called a "parenting plan") according to what arrangement is in the child’s best interests. To figure this out, the court considers a series of factors called the "best interest" factors which include:

It is usually best if both parents can work together to reach an agreement about the parenting plan. As long as the agreement is in the child’s best interests, the judge will usually sign off on the agreement and the parents will not need to make arguments at a trial. If that is not possible, the judge will make a decision after hearing from both parents at a trial.

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What are some helpful resources?

There are many resources about child development and the emotional and psychological impact that parents and their separation can have on children. There are also forms useful in court cases and to make parenting and custody plans. Parents find the following topic pages helpful:

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What are the parent education requirements for custody cases?

For cases involving child custody (dissolution, divorce, custody between unmarried parents), you have to either

  1. watch the Listen to the Children video at the courthouse, or
  2. complete the web-based class Children in Between.

Depending on the type of case, you must complete this requirement either:

See Local Court Requirements for Parent Education for more information for your local court.

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What are some resources for parents who want to work out a settlement?

It is always better for parents and children if parents can find a way to work out the parenting and custody issues through negotiation as opposed to going to a contested court case with a full-blown trial. Parents who are successful in coming up with a settlement in custody matters often use a number of the following resources:

As a guide for discussion, you can use the:

It includes the important parts of a parenting plan and many common options for parents to think about.

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What if we can’t work out a settlement?

Sometimes because of domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health issues, neglect, other safety issues or just plain stubbornness, the parents cannot work out a custody agreement. In that situation, a trial will be necessary and the judge will make the final custody decision.

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What if I need a custody order before my final hearing or trial?

If you need the judge to decide temporary custody before your final hearing or trial, you will need to make the request to the judge by filing a Motion for Interim Orders, along with an affidavit and a proposed order. There are two versions of the forms you can use depending on the specifics of your situation.

If you have a divorce with children case and want to ask for temporary orders regarding custody, visitation, child support along with spousal support, return of property, payment of debts or attorney’s fees, you can use these forms:

If you have a divorce with children or a custody case and are only asking for temporary custody, visitation or support, you can use these forms:

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What if there is an emergency regarding custody?

If you feel that you have an emergency that justifies speeding up the motion for interim custody order process, you may file a motion for interim custody and an additional motion asking for expedited consideration of your interim custody motion. Civil Rule 77(g) PDF is the special court rule controlling these requests. Requests for expedited consideration are rarely granted, and should only be used in a real emergency. You may call the Family Law Self-Help Center Helpline for more information and the special form, or you may consult with an attorney. There are special requirements to serve a motion for expedited consideration.

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Rev. 9 April 2019
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