DIFFICULTY: Legal help required

Initial Filing Fee: Fee varies by jurisdiction.

Step 1: File a Request for Child Custody or Request Modification of an Existing Custody Decision

Fill out a request for Child Custody if the child(ren) are not from a marriage to the other parent. If you are currently married to the other parent of your child(ren) you will need to include in your Petition for Dissolution of Marriage a request for child custody. If a custody order already has been entered by a Court you will need to request the Court modify its previous decision by filing a Petition to Modify Custody. At this time, Illinois does not offer online form templates for public use. To get these forms, you can visit the clerk in the county you will be filing in. If you feel uncertain about your ability to prepare these documents consult a private attorney or search for a self-help legal clinic or legal aid service in your area. After you have prepared the documents, bring the original signed copy of your and a Summons to the Circuit Clerk’s office at your county’s courthouse. At this point, a case file will be started, and you will need to pay the filing fees. After you have received the official file stamped documents back from the Circuit Clerk, it will be your responsibility to make sure the summonses and Petition for Custody are served by a process server on all parties.

Step 2: Attend all Court Hearings

Check for your assigned court date once you receive notification that all parties have received been served with a summons and your Petition for Custody. Usually, the process server will provide you notification that the parties have been served. It is your responsibility to make sure that the proof of service is included in the Court file. This can be done by simply mailing or hand delivering a copy of the proof of service to the Court. After the Court receives notice that the parties have been properly served a Court date is normally scheduled.

Step 3: Conduct Discovery

Evidence in your custody case will be obtained through the discovery process. This will include sending written requests to the other party, asking them to answer specific questions pertaining to the case, or to provide specific documents or records.

Step 4: Attend Mediation

Mediation is required for all child custody cases. Mediation involves a neutral third party selected by the Court who will attempt to assist the parties work out their differences. If the parties are unable to resolve their differences regarding custody, a contested hearing will need to be held.

Step 5: Attend Your Hearing

At the contested custody hearing you will be asked to present evidence to the Court which displays that you are the appropriate person to be the custodial parent or a change in custody is warranted. The judge in the case will call witnesses with information and requests testimony from the parties. After weighing all the evidence the judge will make a decision on the custody issue.

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