How to File a Motion for Family Law

••• Hand and document at the meeting image by Dmitry Goygel-Sokol from

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The rules of civil procedure govern the filing of a motion in a family law case. Although the rules of civil procedure vary slightly from one state to another, the general provisions governing the filing of a motion for family law largely are the same. Before proceeding with a motion in a family law case, familiarize yourself with the basic elements of civil procedure relating to pursuing a motion. By doing so you ensure that your motion is properly brought before the court.

Step 1

Discuss with the other party or parties the issue you desire to raise in your motion before filing. Family law prefers that parties attempt to negotiate issues before seeking judicial intervention. The judge likely will ask what efforts you made to settle a matter when you file a motion in a family law case.

Step 2

Obtain a motion form from the clerk of the court. Court clerks maintain standard forms, including motion forms, for use by people not represented by counsel.

Step 3

Title the motion. For example, if you want to file a motion to change custody, title the document "Motion to Change Custody."

Step 4

Insert the case caption and case number at the top of the motion.

Step 5

Include the essential facts and arguments supporting your position. If you are seeking a change of custody, set forth the facts that support your request.

Step 6

Duplicate at least two copies of the motion, one for the opposing party and one for your records.

Step 7

File the motion with the clerk of the court by handing the motion to an assistant or deputy clerk at the clerk's office at the courthouse.

Step 8

Send a copy of the motion to the opposing party. Pursuant to civil procedure rules, the filing of the motion is not completed until a copy is delivered to the other party to the family law case.


  • Do not file a motion that does not have merit. In other words, make sure that there is a real reason to seek assistance from the court. If the court determines that your motion is frivolous, the judge can sanction you. Sanctions can include the imposition of a monetary penalty. An example of a frivolous motion is one in which you bring up an issue identical to something the court recently ruled upon.


  • Consider engaging the services of an attorney. Family law cases and civil procedure rules are complicated. Your interests typically are best served by retaining the services of a qualified attorney. Local and state bar associations maintain directories of attorneys in different practice areas, including family law. Contact information for these organizations is available through the American Bar Association:
  • American Bar Association
  • 321 N. Clark St.
  • Chicago, IL 60654-7598
  • 312-988-5000



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.

Photo Credits

  • Hand and document at the meeting image by Dmitry Goygel-Sokol from