Legal Information: Massachusetts

Custody

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Updated: 
October 24, 2018

Step 1: File the custody complaint (petition) in court.

To get a custody order from a court, you will need to start by filing a “complaint” in the Probate and Family Court in your county, or perhaps the county where your child is living, if that is different.  You can download the form from the MA Courts System website here.  For a list of courthouses in MA, go to our MA Courthouse Locations page

On the complaint, you will be asked to provide your address. If you do not want the other parent to know your address because you fear physical harm, you can ask to have your address kept confidential.  Ask the clerk of court (the person in charge of keeping records) how to do this. 

If you need help from the court right away to determine temporary custody, set up a visitation schedule or decide on child support, you will need to file a motion for temporary custody, visitation or support.  Be sure to tell the clerk if this is what you are looking for. Generally, you can do this at the same time you file your complaint.