Even if you have already gone to court and established custody arrangements for your child, you might be surprised to learn that you can lose custody in some situations. While the courts are not eager to strip custody rights from parents, their first priority is the safety and well-being of the child. Whether you are a mother or a father, it is important to know which actions or circumstances on your part could lead to a loss of custody. Read on to find out what to avoid doing if you want to be sure to keep custody of your child.
If you are physically, emotionally, or sexually abusing your child, chances are very good that you will lose custody. Additionally, if you are allowing someone else to abuse your child in any way, you will be held to the same consequences. For example, if you have a romantic partner who is abusing your child, you are not doing your job in keeping the child safe and you will likely lose custody.
Child abuse comes in many different forms. What you might see as physical discipline, a court might see as abuse. If you are physically disciplining your child, it is a good idea to learn another way to parent by taking parenting classes or otherwise seeking good counsel. Otherwise, your child’s other parent might make an accusation of abuse and a judge might see it their way.
When you have custody of your child, you are responsible for making sure they are supervised by a responsible adult, reasonably clean, clothed properly, being educated, fed, and otherwise being taken care of. If you are not able to do all of these things, you might lose custody of the child. Be sure that you are not leaving a young child home alone, that they are bathing regularly, wearing clothing appropriate for the weather, going to school (or, if you are homeschooling, keeping up with lessons), fed healthy foods, and being cared for in a way that does not look like neglect.
Abusing or being addicted to drugs or alcohol is another reason that some parents lose custody of their children. Being a parent requires that you are able to meet the child’s needs, and if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol or spending all of your money on these substances, it is very likely that you are not parenting effectively. If you currently have a drug or alcohol addiction, seek treatment promptly to avoid losing custody of your child.
While you already know that abusing your child will likely result in a loss of custody, you might not realize that violence toward anyone else can also land you in hot water when it comes to retaining custody of your child. Abusing your partner, another child in the house, your parent, or anyone else is an indicator that you might not be emotionally stable enough to keep your child safe. If you are in this situation, seek help immediately.
Telling a child that their other parent doesn’t love them or is a bad person is called parental alienation, and it is not looked kindly upon by the court. Parents who participate in this behavior leave their children feeling guilty, devastated, and angry. It is a form of emotional abuse and many judges will use it as a reason to remove the children from that parent’s custody. Knowingly filing false accusations of abuse is another type of parental alienation that could result in the loss of custody. (If you have a legitimate concern, do not let this scare you from reporting your findings; the concern is when a parent intentionally files a false report.)
Violation of Custody Orders
When you receive custody orders, it is imperative that you follow them. In the case of an extenuating circumstance (for example, there is a snowstorm and you cannot safely return your child on time), communicate with your child’s other parent and document that communication in case there is a problem later. You cannot, however, take your child away from his or her other parent. If you were to do this, it would be a reason for you to lose custody.
Untreated Mental Illness
Parents can take care of children effectively if they have various health conditions, as long as they are being treated. Mental illness is something that many parents are reluctant to talk about for fear that they could lose custody of their children. While severe mental illness or various mental health conditions that are not treated are a reason that some parents lose custody of their children, getting treatment will help you keep your child safe and healthy, and it will help you retain custody of your child. Document whatever treatment you are receiving in case there is a question.
You need to be living with your child in a place that is safe and appropriate. This does not need that you must be able to own your home. You might be able to provide a safe and appropriate place for your child to live even if you need to stay with relatives or in a motel room. You can, however, lose custody of your child if you are living in a vehicle or in some type of substandard or dangerous situation (for example, in a home that has been condemned, in squalor, or with people who have abused children in the past). In this case, the loss of custody can be temporary and you might regain custody once you have better living arrangements.
If you are worried about losing custody of your child, contact the legal advocates at National Family Solutions. We can work with you and help you access the help you need to retain custody of your child. Contact us today to find out if we can help you with your case. There is no need for you to get a high-priced attorney in most cases. We are here to advocate for you!