How to File for Custody of a Child

Q:Does your case involve a material change in circumstances between two parents who are not married and have a child in common?
If yes, then contact the Juvenile Court Clerk’s Office: (615) 862-7980.
The Petitioner is responsible for providing an address for service of process on the Respondent at the time of filing.

Q:Does your case involve a material change in circumstances between two parties other than biological parents? (*Example: Parent and family member or Parent and friend.)
If yes, then proceed below

Q:Did the change of custody occur in the Davidson County, Juvenile Court?
If yes, then contact the Neglect/Dependency Intake Division:

  • (615) 862-8019
  • (615) 862-8052
  • (615) 862-8029

If no, then the individual should contact the last court of record involved in the custody change.

Q:What are the steps to file for custody?

  • The Petitioner may pick up the Intake paperwork from the Neglect/Dependency Intake Division, Juvenile Court, and Davidson County, located at 100 Woodland Street, Nashville Tennessee, 37213.

  • The Division is located on the entry level of the court.
  • The paperwork may be mailed to the Petitioner upon request.
  • An Intake Appointment will be scheduled either in person or by phone.

  • An Intake Appointment is a specific date and time for the Petitioner to arrive in order to file their petition for returned custody.

Q:How much does it cost?
Initial court cost is $124 that must be paid prior to the action being filed.

Q:How may I qualify for a waiver of cost?
The Petitioner may qualify for a waiver by showing proof of income, benefit, or disability.

Q:Where can I pick up the waiver of cost paperwork?
This is supplied by the Juvenile Court Clerk’s Office, located on the lower level of the Juvenile Court.

Q:Will I be appointed an attorney to represent me?
No. An attorney would not be appointed to represent a Petitioner in this matter.

Q:What happens at the intake appointment?

  • Intake staff reviews the Petitioner’s completed paperwork and child’s file.
  • Intake staff type up the Petitioner’s request for custody into a computer template.
  • The Petitioner will verify the acccuracy of all statements and will sign their petition. A summons for an initial court hearing will be issued to the Petitioner and mailed to the Respondent.
  • A valid ID must be presented and copied for back ground check purposes.

Q:What happens at the initial court date?

  • The initial court date is called an appearance hearing
  • The Judicial Officer explains why the parties are here and what their rights are regarding their child(ren).
  • A determination will be made whether or not a Guardian Ad litem (GAL) is required in this matter.

  • A GAL is an attorney that represents the best interest of a child.
  • A determination will be made whether or not DCS needs to be notified especially if DCS was involved in the initial removal.
  • A determination will be made whether or not CASA will be involved. CASA is a not-for-profit nationally recognized organization which advocates for the best interest of children.
  • Mediation between the Petitioner and current Guardian may be ordered
  • The case may be set for a settlement hearing.
  • If the case is set for a settlement hearing then a home study on the Petitioner’s home may be ordered and/or drug screens ordered.

Q:What is a home study?
A home study involves a Juvenile Court Probation Officer, Guardian Ad Litem, or CASA volunteer visiting the Petitioner’s home to determine whether or not the home is appropriate for a custody placement.

Q:How long will the process take from beginning to end?
Depends on your case and the involved situation. Be aware that the prosecution of a petition may require several court appearances and additional meetings aside from court.