Your Family Matters

How can I defend against a child custody modification request?

On Behalf of | Jun 11, 2024 | family law

Child custody orders are never final. In Illinois, they’re subject to modification when the court determines that there’s been a substantial change in circumstances, or that the child is seriously endangered, and that modification is in the child’s best interests.

Therefore, there may come a time when the other parent seeks a custody modification that targets your time and relationship with your child. You might be in that position already if you’re reading this post. So, what can you do to defend against one of these modification requests and protect the existing custody order?

How to effectively defend against a child custody modification request

There are several ways to approach a custody modification request. The angle you take will likely depend on the arguments raised in the modification request, as well as the facts at hand. But let’s look at some common arguments so that you know how you can start building your legal position.

  • The last custody order was issued less than two years ago: The court won’t hear a custody modification request based on a substantial change in circumstances if the last custody order was issued less than two years ago. That said, the court will address the request if there’s a concern that the current custody order places the child in serious danger. So, consider whether the facts support the argument that the modification request is premature.
  • Present contradictory evidence: The other parent has to specify how there’s been a substantial change in circumstances. Read the request to modify carefully so that you understand what they’re claiming. Then you can secure evidence, whether in documentary or testimonial form, to contradict or at least minimize those allegations.
  • Attack credibility and reliability: The other parent is going to have to present evidence at court to support their request for modification. This oftentimes includes their own testimony. If you can attack their credibility in some fashion, whether by highlighting prior inconsistent statements or showing that they have a criminal history demonstrative of untruthfulness, then you can minimize the arguments they rely upon in their request to modify the existing custody agreement.
  • Center the focus on the child’s best interests: To succeed in obtaining a modification, the other parent must show that there’s been a substantial change in circumstances and that modification is in the child’s best interests. In many custody disputes, the petitioner focuses on attacking the other parent rather than addressing what’s best for the child. If you can re-focus the court’s hearing on your child’s best interests, then you might stand a better chance of fending off the modification request.
  • Address the other parent’s fitness: Although you might feel like you’re on the defensive when a motion to modify custody is filed against you, one way to fight back against the request is to go on the offensive. If there are facts that demonstrate that the other parent is unfit or otherwise can’t meet your child’s unique needs, then raise them in your response and the custody hearing so that the court has all the information it needs to make a proper custody determination.

Your child’s future and well-being are on the line in your custody case

There’s a lot at stake in a child custody dispute, whether that’s an initial custody determination or a modification. To protect your child and their best interests it’s imperative that you fully prepare for your custody hearing, which will require gathering competent and persuasive evidence and compellingly arguing the law. By doing so, you’ll hopefully shield your child’s well-being and protect your relationship with them.