Request an immediate child custody or parenting time order

Learn how to get a temporary, immediate child custody or parenting time order while you wait for your case to go through the system.

Probate and Family Court locations

The Details of Request an immediate child custody or parenting time order

What you need for Request an immediate child custody or parenting time order

If you need a custody order right away, you can file a motion for temporary orders. This is a way to get a temporary custody order while you wait for your case to go through the court system. For example, you may want to ask the court to determine temporary custody, set up a parenting time schedule, or decide on child support. Generally, you can file a motion at the same time you file your complaint, or before the court makes its final judgment.

To file a motion for temporary orders, you must file:

Your child must have lived in Massachusetts for at least 6 months immediately before you file for custody. This is called the home state rule. There may be exceptions to the home state rule when the child has lived in a different state with one parent. You should talk to a lawyer if you have questions about whether Massachusetts is the right state to file your case.

How to request Request an immediate child custody or parenting time order

To file in person, file for custody in the Probate and Family Court in the appropriate county.

  • If you're filing for custody through a divorce — If you or your spouse lives in the county where you lived together, file for divorce at the Probate and Family Court in that county. Otherwise, file in the county where you or your spouse lives now.
  • All other cases — File in the county where the child lives.

To file by mail, complete the required forms and mail them to the Probate and Family Court in the appropriate court.

  • If you’re filing for custody through a divorce — If your or your spouse lives in the county where you lived together, file for divorce at the Probate and Family Court in that county. Otherwise, file in the county where you or your spouse lives now.
  • All other cases — File in the county where the child lives.

Call the court before filing to get more details about filing by mail.

More info about Request an immediate child custody or parenting time order

When you file a motion for temporary orders, the court will set a date for a temporary order hearing. The temporary order you receive will stay in place until another order or the court’s final judgment replaces it.

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