Child custody legal assistance

As you consider the best care for a child following a divorce, separation or another difficult family situation, it is important to have appropriate legal representation to guide you through the process. We’re here to help you get started.

Legal advice

Community Legal Aid Services

Providing legal counsel and assistance to low-income individuals and families in Northeast Ohio. Open Monday through Friday 8:30am - 4:30pm, closed for lunch 12pm - 1pm daily.
401 Market Ave N, Suite 103
Canton, OH 44702
Toll-free: 1 (866) 584-2350
Toll-free: 1 (866) 584-2350
Local: (330) 456-8361

Stark County Bar Association

Referrals for people who have questions or need legal advice but do not know where to turn for a lawyer.
116 Cleveland Ave. NW
Suite 400
Canton, OH 44702
Phone: (330) 453-0685
Attorney referrals: (330) 453-0686
Attorney referrals: (330) 453-0686
Representing yourself in court

Citizen’s Guide to Representing Yourself in Court

Find helpful guidance if you are planning to represent yourself in family court without the help of an attorney.

How to prepare

The following recommendations can help set you up for success during your child custody case:

  • Contact a lawyer to plan for the types of questions you could be asked throughout the proceedings. You should be prepared to discuss where the child will live, how they will get to school and what emotional support systems will be available.
  • Complete all necessary documentation and collect any other relevant records required by the court. These could include phone logs, visitation schedules, proof of child support payments and more.
  • Bring in trusted adults, such as teachers, caseworkers or babysitters who can offer positive testimonies about your qualifications as an effective caregiver.
  • Wear modest, professional clothing, maintain a clean, conservative hairstyle, and keep makeup and accessories to a minimum.
  • Practice courtroom etiquette with your lawyer to make sure you understand the proper behaviors and expectations of the court.


Forms & requirements

Download, complete and submit the following documentation to file your change of custody request.

Motion for change of parental rights & responsibilities:

Official request to change a shared parenting plan or the sole residential parent and legal custodian.

Notice of hearing & request for service:

Asks for an individual to be served with court papers, initiating a child custody claim.

Custody affidavit:

Declaration of whether you have been involved in a previous child custody, visitation or related case.

Affidavit of income & expenses:

Record of income, expenses and money owed to determine child and spousal support amounts.

Parenting proceeding affidavit:

Release of relevant information that could impact an active child custody case.

Health insurance affidavit:

Disclosure of health insurance coverage available for children which can be used to determine child support.

The setting and decision

For domestic family matters, such as child custody claims, cases are often heard in a small room at Stark County Family Court with very few people present. Your case will be presented in front of a judge – not a jury – and he or she will make the final decision. Custody cases are typically less complicated than criminal court cases and are often decided much more quickly.

The final ruling will come after both parties have presented their side and will be made with the child’s best interests in mind. In the decision, a custodial parent will be named and a visitation schedule will be set for the non-custodial parent. Contact Stark County Family Court to learn more.

Emotional support

Often a result of difficult situations, such as divorce or incarceration, custody cases are stressful – especially for children. The outcome of the custody case determines the child’s primary caregiver, where they will live, the school they will attend and who they will spend holidays with. There is a lot to decide and the changes can take a major emotional toll and affect children’s mental health.

Fortunately, with emotional support from providers in Stark County, caregivers and children can learn to cope, heal and help each other throughout the entire process. Individual and family counseling can address the emotional strain created throughout the court proceedings and identify any other underlying mental health concerns.

View a listing of mental health resources.