How to File for Temporary Child Custody

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Despite some minor procedural variations between states, the laws governing filing for temporary child custody are largely the same across the U.S. Two common situations exist in which temporary child custody is sought. First, temporary custody is ordered while divorce, legal separation or paternity are proceeding. Second, temporary custody is ordered when the parent with custody is unable to care for the child, at least on short-term basis.

Obtain a motion for temporary child custody form from the clerk of the court. Court clerks usually maintain a number of standardized forms for use by individuals involved in cases without legal representation.

Determine the proper standard applied to your particular request for establishing temporary child custody. If there is no prior custody order, you demonstrate what is in the best interest of the child. If there is an existing child custody order, you must set forth a material change of circumstances sufficient to warrant an alteration in the custodial arrangement, even on a temporary basis.

Complete the motion form, including setting forth the appropriate standard. Again, the standards are "best interests of the child" and "material change of circumstances." Include specific information on why the best interests of the child are served with the temporary custody arrangement you propose. In the alternative, identify the facts supporting the contention that there is a material change of circumstances.

File the motion with the court clerk.

Schedule a hearing date on your motion. Scheduling is done either through the court of the clerk's office or the administrative assistant for the judge assigned the case.

Send a copy of the motion to the other parent together with notice of the hearing. Delivering a copy of the motion and the hearing notice completes the filing process.


  • Consider engaging the services of an attorney to represent you in a temporary child custody matter. Local and state bar associations maintain directories of attorneys in different areas of practice, 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


  • The best interest of a child include considerations of the physical and mental health of all parties, which parent historically provided primary care and which parent maintains a residence most suitable as a home for the child.
  • A material change of circumstances is an alteration so significant that the best interest of the child cannot be met under the existing custodial arrangement. For example, the parent with custody developed a health condition rendering her unable to care for the child, at least on a temporary basis.



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