Child Custody | Family
How To Win a Custody Modification Case
by Unbundled Legal Help
To win a custody modification case, you must prove to the court that your child’s wellbeing will substantially improve if the suggested changes are accepted. The outcome of the case will depend on what the court will consider to be in the child’s best interest. However, there are several proven strategies that may increase your chances of success.
Your first step towards winning a custody modification hearing is preparing a strong base. Collect convincing evidence that the change of custody will be beneficial for your child. There are two main arguments on which you can build this base:
- A major event has occurred in the primary custodial parent’s life that now impairs their ability to provide a thriving environment for your child (arrest, abuse of illegal substances, mental health issues, loss of employment, move to a different country, etc.).
- A string of smaller events and patterns can also indicate that the primary custody holder is not providing sufficient care for your child. Examples of these include a child’s diminishing performance at school, deteriorating health, poor emotional state, lack of time spent with the non-custodial parent and more.
If you are the parent filing for modification of custody, you will bear the burden of proof. This means you will need to present all relevant supporting documents as evidence to the court.
As all custody proceedings start with document submissions, you will need to prepare sufficient evidence in advance. If there has been a change in the custodial parent’s life, making your case will be easier as you will need fewer documents to argue the modification of custody—for instance, an arrest record.
If no major change has occurred, you will need to present a substantial amount of evidence to prove that the change will be in the child’s best interests. This may include the following:
- Medical records (if you are arguing that the health of the child has deteriorated in the custodial parent’s custody)
- School records (if you want to demonstrate your child’s deteriorating academic performance)
- Therapy session records (if you are seeking a custody change based on your child’s worsening emotional state)
- Call, email, and text records (if you are arguing that your visitation or communication rights are not being upheld—or, on the contrary, want to prove that you have a strong bond with your child)
- Any other documentation or other forms of evidence that, in your view, can help you build a stronger custody modification case: photos, videos, recommendation letters, bank statements, employment records, etc.
How To Prepare for a Custody Modification Case
As you can see, to win a custody modification case, you need to present strong evidence in an admissible format that changes in custody will benefit your child. Gathering this evidence may be a time-consuming process, but a strong base is absolutely essential for a successful outcome.
- If you believe your co-parent is unfit, you will need to collect evidence of their missteps that can be presented in court. Keep a record of all of their actions that have resulted in any form of abuse or endangerment.
- Keep a record of all call logs and visits with your child. This will allow you to demonstrate your connection and closeness—or, on the other hand, establish that your visitation rights are not observed.
- Keep track of all changes in your child’s behavior, their emotional state and academic performance. Document any changes you consider negative in a format that can be presented in court.
- Avoid direct confrontations with your ex-partner. Make sure all your disagreements are handled in a civil manner, as this will also speak to your character and ability to be the primary caregiver. If you are having problems with mutual communication, use your attorney as a mediator to help you negotiate.
- Ask your relatives, neighbors, colleagues, your child’s teachers and coaches, and anyone else who may have first-hand knowledge of your relationship with your child to provide written statements on your character and parental abilities.
- Create a safe, stable, and supportive environment for your child that will show the court that you are fully ready for the suggested changes in custody.
- Make sure your attorney or legal team have full access to the details of your case and supporting documentation. The more information your lawyer has, the more efficient they will be in preparing and assisting your case.
While preparing a solid base is absolutely essential for building your case in court, keep one important thing in mind. In many cases, family courts will make their decisions in favor of stability, as changes in custody will be regarded as stressful for the child. Because of this, your primary goal is to collect and present the available evidence in a way that it demonstrates a pattern of behavior. In most cases, a single isolated unfavorable event in the other parent’s life will not be enough to swing the court in your favor.
What Is a Custody Evaluation?
If your custody case becomes too complicated, the judge may call for a custody evaluation. This is a procedure where a mental health professional assesses all participants of the custodial process: you, your co-parent, and your child or children. They will prepare a report based on the evaluation and recommend to the court who should be awarded custody.
If the court doesn’t order an evaluation, but you believe it to be in your best interest, you can ask the court to initiate an evaluation. Alternatively, you can ask them to allow you to set up a custody evaluation independently.
Is Professional Legal Help Necessary To Win a Custody Modification Case?
It is possible to modify a child custody agreement without hiring a lawyer—especially if both parties agree. However, even when there is no custody dispute, this may not be the best-case scenario. A custody lawyer may be able to recognize the potential pitfalls of certain changes and advise you on related implications that you or your partner may not be aware of.
On the other hand, if you and your partner cannot come to an agreement regarding custody modifications, involving legal help can be essential in properly making your case and convincing the court that the change is necessary.
Lowering Your Custody Lawyer Legal Costs
Hiring legal help can definitely be costly. It will depend on the specifics of your case and the time your lawyer will need to spend preparing for it. For instance, if both you and your ex partner agree custody modifications are necessary, your legal fees will be lower.
If your custody modification case is complicated by disagreements between the two parties, you may expect to pay anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 for the initial preparation of your case and an additional fee of $300 to $500 per hour.
The reason that custody modification legal fees are high is that most custody lawyers provide a comprehensive set of services, encompassing all aspects of the legal procedure. This includes preparing supporting documents, filing motions, negotiating, court hearing assistance, and more. If your financial situation allows for such an investment, then it makes perfect sense to move forward with all-encompassing legal help.
However, this isn’t always the case. If you need a lawyer to perform a specific task—for instance, attend a court hearing or check a custody modification agreement—you can choose unbundled legal services. This can help you save a substantial amount of money you would have otherwise spent on legal fees.
By using unbundled legal services, you get to assign specific tasks to your attorney, which you cannot handle independently. As a result, you will be paying much less in legal fees ($500 – $1,500).
Note, however, that unbundled legal services may not be the best option if your custody case is complicated. In this case, the lawyers we work with can still assist you by offering full representation. We cooperate with smaller legal firms as well as individual lawyers, so you will still be able to cut costs on your legal fees—even for full representation. You’ll get a better idea of what to expect in your custody modification case, what documentation you will need to prepare, and evaluate potential costs.
To determine what is best for your specific case, we can put you in touch today with a local child custody lawyer.