I face many situations in which a mother has voluntarily given custody of her children over to the father. Many times this happens because the mother wants to go back to school to obtain a degree, or because the mother's house is cramped & the father just moved into a new, larger space.
Regardless, the mother feels in doing so that the arrangement will just be "temporary." Sometimes the father even expressly states, "I won't give you any problems in giving you back the kids when you finish school."
If only everything were just that simple. When a Child Custody lawyer must get involved, it's because the situation has changed, but now the father will not give the kids back. The mother has no proof of their informal arrangement and therefore must satisfy a high legal burden in order to get an order from a Judge switching custody. What to do?
First, mothers in this situation should get the temporary nature of the arrangement captured in writing, preferably in a custody order which provides that mother may petition for custody again when her circumstances change (while stating in the order itself what exact circumstances may create the change).
Second, it's preferable to have the father sign a notarized letter, affidavit or stipulation stating his intentions of giving the children back upon, for example, mother finishing school.
Finally, any conversations of significance between father & mother should be captured in writing, which usually takes the form of a confirmatory e-mail.
While these steps won't guarantee a mother gets custody back, they'll put her in a much better position that doing nothing at all & assuming "everything will fall into place."