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Five ways to defend yourself in a child custody modification hearing

On Behalf of | Mar 5, 2024 | Child Custody

Your child custody order is subject to modification at any time. Therefore, your child’s other parent may file a request with the court seeking to restrict the time that you spend with your kid. Before the court will grant a motion to modify, it’ll have to decide that there’s been a substantial change in circumstances, which is shown by the evidence presented at the modification hearing. If the court makes that finding, then your time and your relationship with your child can be negatively impacted, and for some time to come.

But you don’t have to sit back and let the other parent steamroll you in the modification hearing. Instead, you can thoroughly prepare your arguments to counter whatever it is that the other parent tries to lob in your direction. But how, exactly, do you go about defending yourself in a child custody hearing?

Tips for defending yourself in a child custody hearing

The other parent is going to do everything they can to try to paint you in a bad light. And they might be convincing if you don’t illustrate a contradictory picture for the judge. With that in mind, here are some ways that you might be able to successfully defend yourself in a child custody hearing:

  • Focus on best interests: Remember, the judge in your case is going to issue a ruling that they think best protects your child’s best interests. That can be hard to lose focus of when the other parent is dragging you through the mud. But you can refocus the judge’s attention so that basis of their determination is where it should be.
  • Go on the offensive: Another way to take the focus off you is to attack the fitness of the other parent. You might be able to do this by bringing up issues like substance abuse, physical or mental abuse, financial struggles, or untreated mental health issues. By putting the other parent on the defensive, you decrease the chances that the judge will modify the existing custody order, or you may even convince them to modify it in a way that’s more favorable to you and your child.
  • Contradict: Some of the evidence presented against you might be blatantly false or misleading. You need to set the story straight, otherwise the judge will rely upon it. So, seek out documentation and witnesses who can contradict the other parent’s arguments.
  • Mitigate: If you’re worried about the evidence that’s going to be presented against you, then seek ways to mitigate it. For example, you might be able to attack witness credibility in a way that minimizes the impact of their testimony. Or you might be able to contextualize certain statement or events in a way that reduces the negative inference the other parent wants the judge to take from them.
  • Negotiate: When the evidence supporting a modification request is overwhelming, you might want to consider taking the ultimate decision out of the judge’s hand. You can do this by negotiating a modification that’s less impactful for you and your child, so long as the other parent is open to having these discussions.

Don’t go into your custody modification hearing unprepared

There’s simply too much at stake in your child custody modification hearing to improvise your arguments or otherwise enter it unprepared. Instead, carefully read the motion that the other parent filed so that you know what arguments you’re up against. Then, diligently work to develop a legal strategy that counters those arguments and protects your child’s best interests. Hopefully then you’ll obtain an outcome that’s fair and favorable.