Here is a story about a custody modification where we helped a young man get his daughter out of an unsafe situation. We conduct a lot of surveillance where children are ignored, abused, and abandoned while with one of the custodial parents.
The sad part is, Child Protective Services (CPS) are often called out to these situations. However, CPS is required to give notice before they inspect a child’s living conditions. When CPS shows up, everything is clean, the children are dressed, and well fed.
If one parent is attempting to get the custody agreement modified, the judge will require proof. Photos of the living conditions, children being abandoned, and being placed in dangerous situations must be acquired legally by a third party.
“There are many reasons why you or your child’s other parent may ask the court to modify the the current child custody schedule, including: …The child is in immediate danger due to domestic violence, drug use, or alcoholism in the other parent’s home.”
Accusations will typically not get a custody agreement modified. A talk with a lawyer will give you better insight into these situations with an explanation of the McClendon Standard.
There are several things private investigators can prove. If unauthorized co-habitation is suspected, investigators will prove this through surveillance and trash inventories. If child abandonment is suspected, the investigator will prove this by following the subject and showing where the children are left alone.
Let’s get back to our story. This young man came to us with serious concerns about his child. The child would come back to him exhausted and would sleep for 12 to 16 hours. She appeared to lose weight during her visits with her mother.
The client in this case had the following characteristics at the time of the investigation:
- He was 22 years old
- He shared custody with his former girlfriend, also 22 years old
- The custody schedule was 7 on, 7 off
- He worked for the post office delivering mail
- His mother took care of the 4 year old while he was at work
He came to me because his sister knew the activities going on at his ex-girlfriend’s (we will call her Sally) apartment while in custody of the child. Some of the reported activities were:
- She was in a relationship with a local drug dealer (we will call him Tim), an addict who lived with her
- Sally denied anyone lived with her
- Major parties took place while she had custody of the child
- The 4 year old was spotted in the yard at 3 am playing one morning
- CPS was called twice but each time they found no dangerous situation
- It was suspected that illegal drugs were consumed around the child
The Police Were Called
The client paid our fee and we got started. Initially, we weren’t seeing much. Then one evening, in the back of the apartment, Tim was visibly injecting drugs into his arm. The child could be seen next to him while this was going on. The mother was not at home during this.
The investigator, fearing for the safety of the child, called 911 and reported what was seen. When the police arrived, they knocked on the front door. The investigator was observing the rear of the apartment. Fifteen young men came out the back and ran to the woods and adjoining parking lot.
The police called our client and gave him custody of the child while Tim and two of his friends were arrested.
The mother lost custody for 1 year while she got her life together. With the evidence we presented, the mother got supervised visits until she could prove a pattern of correct behavior.
“To overturn a judge’s decision regarding custody, the person appealing must show that evidence supports the decision or that the trial court abused its discretion.”
Some people say, “This is terrible. You are ripping children away from their parents.” This is a view held by most selfish people who say they are “living their lives to the fullest”. We protect children. Children should not be around illegal drugs and adults who have no interest in parenting.
If you share custody of your children, and fear the other party is placing your child in danger, we can help. Unauthorized co-habitation, alcohol abuse, abandonment, and a chaotic home life are a few of the things we prove through surveillance and digital forensics.
The judge typically will not modify custody based on hearsay; hard evidence has to be presented. Call us for help.