Although a child custody arrangement might seem like it’s going okay, you can suddenly and unexpectedly be hit with a modification request, filed by your child’s other parent. This motion can feel like a punch to the gut, threatening to reduce or even eliminate the time that you share with your child. If your child’s other parent has their way, then your relationship with your child could be devastated.
That’s a lot to contend with, leaving you stressed, uncertain, and fearful of the future. But you might have strong arguments to beat back a child custody modification request. You simply have to know how to build and litigate from your defensive position.
How can you defend against a child custody modification request?
The strategies implemented in these situations are fact specific. However, there are some broader tactics that you could implement to protect the existing child custody order. Here are some of them:
- Find contradictory evidence: Your child’s other parent is going to claim that they have compelling evidence that speaks to your parental unfitness. You need to find a way to contradict or at least minimize that evidence. Talking to witnesses could be helpful, but so, too, could presenting relevant documentation, such mental health and substance abuse treatment records, depending on what the issues are in your case.
- Engage in discovery: You need to know what the other parent intends to present at the hearing on the motion to modify. You can do this by engaging in the discovery process. Here, you can ask the other parent to share information and documentation with you, and you could even have them answer questions ahead of time about why they’re seeking a modification and why they think you’re unfit as a parent. This information can help you frame your response.
- Shift the focus: The other parent is going to do everything they can to paint you in a bad light. You can minimize that by shifting the focus in your case. Remember, the court should base its determination on the child’s best interests, so you should keep your arguments child centric. You can also go on the offensive and highlight any shortcoming that the other parent possesses, which helps contextualize some of the arguments made against you and highlights why the existing arrangement is still better than the proposed alternative.
- Consider a custody evaluation: A lot of custody disputes are hard for courts to decipher because they devolve into he-said, she-said scenarios. A child custody evaluation can help cut through all of that. This comprehensive evaluation is conducted by a neutral third-party who talks to relevant parties, reads through pertinent documentation, and observes parenting time to formulate a custody recommendation. This gives the court an unbiased report upon which it can base its determination.
- Use the rules of evidence: A parent can’t simply come into court and levy allegations against you however they see fit. They have to abide by the rules of evidence when presenting their arguments. If they don’t, then you might be able to block some harmful evidence from being used against you, which can disrupt the other parent’s case.
Be ready to fight for the outcome your child deserves
Keep in mind that your child and their best interests are at the center of a custody dispute. Therefore, you’ll want to tailor your arguments to demonstrate why your proposed custody arrangement is best for them. That can be difficult to do when you’re under attack, and you do need to defend yourself, but you can craft a compelling and persuasive legal strategy with just a little bit of work.
So, if you want to protect your child and your relationship with them, then now is the time to start crafting your legal arguments.