A custody order in a divorce or paternity case is not permanent. Until the children reach age eighteen, either parent can petition the court to modify the prior custody award. This is true even if the current custody award was negotiated as part of a settlement or stipulation. The courts understand that circumstances can change and that the children need a change. If the custody award favors you, you might be defending against a petition to modify custody sometime in the future.
We are Utah custody lawyers practicing family law in the Salt Lake City area and along the Wasatch front. Below, we provide some tips for how to defend against a petition to modify custody. Please keep in mind that every case is different and the tips are generalities. If you have questions about your specific case, feel free to reach out for a free consultation.
Ensure That Your Children Are Thriving and Document It
If the children are thriving, it will be difficult for the other parent to persuade the court to change custody. Keep track of your children’s progress at school and in other things. Do not neglect or abuse the children or do anything about which the other parent could legitimately complain. Keep documentation of the good things so that you can prove it in court.
Do Not Attempt to Unnecessarily Cut Off the Children from the Other Parent
The conventional wisdom to which the courts adhere is that parents need both parents. If the other parent is entitled to parent time, see to it that he or she gets it. The exception is where the other parent might harm the children. Contact with the other parent is for the benefit of the children. Inappropriately cutting off the other parent will put you in a bad light.
Begin Defending Against a Petition to Modify Custody as Soon as Possible
Do not wait for a petition to modify custody to start acting like the good parent. Start now. Keep records. You do not want the court to determine you are a good parent only while a case is pending. Your children will benefit, and the other parent may not feel a need to fight for custody.