This is the fifth post in my series on the handling of parental abduction cases in Melbourne, Florida. My last article discussed what to expect when one attends the initial hearing in a parental abduction case. As I explained, the purpose of the proceeding is to determine whether the offending parent should be held in contempt. In this article, I will discuss steps which can be taken after the initial hearing if one wishes to request a change in child custody. Dealing with parental abduction can be a stressful situation that requires great care and attention to detail. Contact my office today to speak with a lawyer if you need assistance.
It is common to want to change custody once a parent has refused to abide by the current custody order. However, a change of custody will only be awarded if the Judge believes that the change would be in the best interests of the child or children and that circumstances have changed since the last order. In the case of parental abduction, a parent’s refusal to return the child may constitute the “changed circumstances” which are necessary to bring a request before the Court. This is especially true if the Judge has determined that the offending parent should be held in contempt for refusing to return the child. For more serious violations of an order, the Court may even order that a temporary change in custody be made until a request for a permanent change can be filed. The first step in modifying your current arrangement is for a parent to have their attorney file a Motion to Change Custody. A hearing will then be scheduled and the responding parent will be notified of the date. When bringing a request to modify your current arrangement it is important to present as much relevant information as possible.
So what type of evidence is relevant when requesting a change of custody? You will need to present evidence that a change in custody would be in the best interests of the child. Some examples include:
- Proof of prior instances in which the other parent did not comply with the current custody and visitation order
- Evidence that the child is being exposed to a harmful environment, such as drug or domestic abuse
- Evidence that the child has missed a significant amount of school when in the care of the other parent
- Written communication between both parents
Sometimes it is even helpful to utilize the testimony of a child psychologist. A therapist can interview and evaluate the child in order to gain a better understanding of what is occurring in the home. For example, one of the components of the best interests standard involves encouraging healthy communication between the child and the other parent. Evidence of disparaging remarks made to the child about the other parent can show that the current order may not meet that standard. It is important to understand that such interviews may only be conducted when they have been requested by the Court.
Requesting a change in custody can be a complicated and fact-intensive process. It is wise to retain a lawyer early on in the process. Contact my office to speak with a Melbourne child custody attorney. My office services clients in the cities of Titusville, Cocoa, Palm Bay, Grant, Valkaria, and Rockledge, as well as in the Indian River County areas of Fellsmere, Sebastian, Vero Beach, Indian River Shores, and Orchid.