Even if your divorce has been finalized for a while, you can suddenly and unexpectedly find yourself on the defensive when your child’s other parent files a motion to modify custody. The stakes are high when this happens, as a modification could reduce the amount of time that you get to spend with your child as well as decrease the quality of that time. If the allegations against you are severe enough, you might even be at risk of being denied face-to-face contact with your child altogether.
You probably don’t think that’s best for your child, which is why you should prepare to aggressively defend against the modification request. But where you do you even start in doing that? Let’s take a closer look.
Tips for defending yourself against a child custody modification request
As stressful as your circumstances may be, there are strategies that you can implement to try to beat back a modification request. Here are some options that might prove effective in your case:
- Contradicting the allegations: This is the most straightforward approach that most people consider when they find themselves facing a modification request. Depending on the allegations at hand, you might be able to use witness testimony, police reports, mental health records, and financial statements to counter the other parent’s arguments.
- Requesting a child custody evaluation: Child custody disputes often boil down to he-said, she-said situations, leaving the court in a position where it’s difficult to determine the truth. However, a child custody evaluation, which is conducted by a neutral third-party, can give the court an unbiased perspective on the family dynamics and the child’s best interests. This evaluation, which is all-encompassing, culminates in a written report that’s submitted to the court with a recommendation.
- Renewing focus on the child’s best interests: A lot of modification requests are based on personal attacks against a parent. While these issues are oftentimes related to the child’s well-being, in some instances they’re not. To help the court avoid getting tangled up in the personal drama between you and your child’s other parent, you can shift the focus of the modification back to your child’s best interests.
- Using mediation: Not all modification requests can be successfully defended against. If you feel like the evidence is overwhelmingly in the other parent’s favor, then you might want to consider resolving the issue through mediation. This will keep the matter private and give you more control over the outcome, the latter of which will hopefully give you better results than if the issue were litigated in court.
- Talking to your child: If your child is older, then their opinion should be a factor that’s taken into consideration by the court when making a child custody determination. So, try talking to your child to see if they support your position on the modification request.
Be fully prepared going into your custody hearing
You can’t afford to go into your custody hearing unprepared. If you do, then you might see your time with your child significantly reduced. So, now is the time think through the allegations in the modification request and gather evidence to support your position. You’ll also need to know how the court is going to assess the request and how you can use statutory and case law to your advantage.
If that makes you feel uneasy, don’t worry. You don’t have to navigate this process on your own. Instead, you can reach out for the support that you need to get through this trying time and hopefully secure the outcome that’s best for you and your child.