How to File for Custody if You Can't Find the Father

Obtain from the clerk of the court an appropriate petition form. A case is commenced with the filing of a petition. In order for custody to be legally awarded to a parent through an order of the court, a proceeding like a divorce, paternity or guardianship case needs to be filed.

Complete the petition, using the guidelines that are provided by the clerk of the court.

File the petition with the clerk of the court.

Request from the clerk an affidavit of service by publication. Service by publication is the placement of a legal notice in a local newspaper giving notice of the case. Publication notices are used in this instance because the father's whereabouts are not known.

Complete the affidavit attesting to the fact that you do not know the location of the father.

Sign the affidavit in front of a notary public.

File the affidavit with the clerk of the court.

Obtain a sample form for the newspaper legal notice of the case.

Complete the legal notice.

Submit the legal notice to the newspaper. Most states require such a notice to be published at least three consecutive times.

Obtain from the newspaper a verification of publication.

File the verification with the clerk of the court.

Obtain a form motion for custody from the clerk of the court. Complete the motion and file it with the court clerk.

Request a hearing on the motion for custody.

Attend the hearing and request a default judgment on the motion because the father's whereabouts are unknown and you made appropriate service by publication.


  • "Child Custody A to Z: Winning with Evidence;" Guy J. White; 2005
  • "Winning Custody: A Woman's Guide to Retaining Custody of Her Children;" Deedra Hunter & Tom Monte; 2001


About the Author

Mike Broemmel began writing in 1982. He is an author/lecturer with two novels on the market internationally, "The Shadow Cast" and "The Miller Moth." Broemmel served on the staff of the White House Office of Media Relations. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and political science from Benedictine College and a Juris Doctorate from Washburn University. He also attended Brunel University, London.