What is a Counter-Petition for Child Custody? 

A counter-petition is a document filed by a respondent (the person who receives a petition) asking the court to make decisions and grant relief on their behalf of themselves. This pleading is usually done to refute or reframe certain information in the original petition. 

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When a person files a suit for divorce, custody or another legal issue, they must serve documents on the other party to initiate the case. These documents include an original petition and a citation. 

An original petition is a pleading that details the motivations behind the suit and what relief the initiating party is seeking. This information is what a judge will use to decide the case. 

Generally, the petition will ask the court to award divorce, custody of the children, child support or other relief. It will also list any grounds the suit is based on, such as adultery or abuse. 

The other party to the suit will then file a response, which is an answer that denies or admits the claims made in the petition. 

A court will require a response to be filed within a certain number of days after service on the responding party. Failure to file an answer can result in a default judgment against you. 

What Does it Mean to Be “Served?”

Unless a custody case is agreed upon, the parent who filed first (the petitioner) must have the other parent served with the initial custody papers by the constable, sheriff, private process server or court clerk. 

Once the respondent is served, the respondent has 20 days to file an answer admitting or denying the claims in the petition. 

This is important to do because it tells the court you intend to present your side of the story, which can help prevent a default judgment. 

Your response should explain why you think the petitioner has wronged you or why you believe that their request is unjustified. Your response should also detail any other information the court needs to hear from you to make a decision about the case. 

How to Find Your Response Form?

Some courts have specific forms that you can download from their website, others may have a general form you can fill out online and submit to the court. The instructions for each type of petition will tell you if there are more forms to file along with yours. 

You can file your response in person at the courthouse, by mail or electronically through a website. You can pay the filing fee using cash, money order or most major credit cards. 

The court will then set a date and time for your hearing or other event required by the court. The other parent will have a chance to respond and you will both receive copies of their response. 

If you do not attend your hearing, the other parent can file paperwork asking the court to enter a default judgment against you. If the court approves, the other parent gets everything they asked for in the petition.