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 8 Common Ways a Mother Can Lose a Child Custody Battle

Michael Tierney
January 26, 2023

There are few things as important as the well-being and safety of our children. Becoming a parent means surrendering your life as an individual and dedicating yourself to the upbringing of your children to mold them into upstanding adults. Raising a child is one of the most fulfilling things we can do in life, but it also doubles as the most challenging because of the effort required to keep our children on the correct path.

While obstacles complicate raising a child, parents will go to almost any lengths to raise their child the best way they know how.

Unfortunately, some obstacles that can impact our ability to raise our children are legal hurdles that alter the time we spend with them.

There are several common issues for modern marriage, with half of all marriages in America ending in divorce because of them. During the divorce proceedings, we are forced to negotiate with our spouse and their legal team to determine asset division and support payments.

Solution The most important thing we end up negotiating is child custody, which means figuring out which parent lives with the child full-time.

Both parents are entitled to be a part of their child's life, barring a few exceptions, but only one is given custody while the other is granted visitation. Custody is usually assigned to the mother, but a mother can lose the custody battle with her ex-spouse.

#1: Physical Abuse

The most important reason a mother might lose custody of the child to her ex-spouse is that she has physically abused the child or her spouse. Physical abuse is an extremely serious offense that the legal system frowns upon fairly severely. Physically abusing an adult is considered a major offense, but abusing a child is one of the worst crimes in modern society.

A Physically Abused Child

Physical abuse is well-defined as physical violence intended to harm the victim. Physically abusing a child means inflicting injuries on them through violent action. This could include punching or kicking the child out of anger or frustration.

Most abusive personalities revolve around enforcing a perceived power over the victim through violence. Any violence a mother inflicts on a child under 18 is considered child abuse and is a criminal offense. During divorce negotiations, the father must provide proof of the mother's abuse toward the child. If abuse is proven, the chances of the mother being awarded custody fall to 0 almost immediately.

The only caveat is that proving abuse, especially of a minor, is extremely difficult.

#2: Emotional Abuse

Physical abuse is only one kind of abuse a mother can inflict on her child, not necessarily the worst. Emotional abuse can be equally devastating to a child because it inflicts wounds on their self-esteem and mental health. Emotional abuse is especially nefarious since it undermines the victim's mental well-being.

Children, especially young children, are especially vulnerable to emotional damage since they are still developing their coping skills and their ability to process what is said to them. Children are also conditioned not to speak out against their parents from an early age, even when it is to defend themselves. Mothers who emotionally abuse their children take advantage of this conditioning.

An Emotionally Abusive Mother

Emotional abuse can include several aggressive forms of communication and thought-altering. The most notable types of emotional abuse include:

  • Constant criticism of the child.
  • Blaming the child for things beyond their comprehension.
  • Dismissing the child's feelings or making them feel guilty about them.
  • Ridiculing the child.
  • Gaslighting the child.

Other forms of emotional abuse can negatively affect the child's mental and emotional health. Physical abuse is difficult to prove, but emotional abuse can be nearly impossible. This is because we have no physical markers of emotional abuse to prove the abuse occurred. The only effective way to prove emotional abuse is to subject the child to therapy to diagnose their issues and identify the source of the trauma.

#3: Neglect

While abuse is a horrific crime, there is debate about whether abuse is worse than neglect. Children rely on their parents to care for them and tend to their needs early on, slowly outgrowing this dependence as they age. Unfortunately, not everyone can care for their child like they should and will neglect them instead.

A Neglectful Mother

Neglect means disregarding the needs of their children and failing to feed, house, and clothe them or failing to tend to their medical needs. Child neglect is a crime in the same realm as abuse and impacts the judge's decision to award custody. A mother who neglects her child is just as bad as a mother who abuses her child in the court's eyes. As a result, a neglectful mother will lose her custodial rights for neglect just like she would for abuse.

#4: Drug Use

When determining child custody, there is a gold standard that all judges adhere to when making their decision. They ask themselves, "what is in the child's best interest?" This question determines which parent is in the best position to raise the child without endangering them or compromising their upbringing. As a result, judges are less tolerant of drug abuse when determining child custody.

A parent who is addicted to drugs of any kind is not capable of raising a child effectively or safely. Therefore, a mother strung out on drugs will not be awarded custody because their addiction could endanger the child. There have been situations where a parent has willingly endangered their child to feed their addiction.

Woman Taking a Drug

Proving whether the mother of your child has a drug addiction is a little easier than proving abuse but requires you to jump through more hoops. You can speak to your attorney about compelling a drug test to determine whether the mother of your child has drugs in her system. An addict will almost always have some trace amount in their system since most narcotics and illegal substances have a half-life that lasts several days. Unfortunately, not every court is willing to accept drug tests that have not gone through a specific laboratory.

#5: Financial Issues

As part of the question that all judges consider when determining custody, the judge must ensure the custodial parent has the resources necessary to provide for the child. While the custodial parent is awarded child support payments from the non-custodial parent, the custodial parent must be financially capable of providing for them full-time. Additionally, the parent who makes less money is awarded spousal support payments congruent with the quality of life they shared while married and the other spouse's overall income.

Unfortunately, these support payments do not account for the average cost of raising a child full-time. Therefore, the judge opts to place the child in the custody of the parent who can financially provide for the child. This means the custodial parent cannot completely rely on spousal support to provide for their child.

Woman Struggling With Finances

This is not definitive, but it is rare for a parent without viable income to be awarded full custody of a child. If the child's mother struggles to finance her cost of living, she will struggle more when she is expected to pay for her child's needs. The mother of your child might not be excluded because of her financial situation, but it skews things in the father's favor if he does not suffer the same issues discussed thus far.

#6: Perjury

The United States judicial system legally requires the people who appear before the judge to answer questions truthfully. No matter the type of proceeding, lying in court is a crime punishable by time in jail. The same restrictions apply to any paperwork they must file during the proceedings, and failure to answer honestly will lead to punishment.

While divorce and custody arrangements are civil proceedings, they are subject to the same restrictions. Perjury is still a serious crime, and lying about certain details to secure custody of a child qualifies as perjury. If the child's mother lies on official forms or makes false allegations before a judge, her chances at custody diminish.

A Woman Lying

It is important to remember that false allegations of physical or emotional abuse are also considered perjury. Trying to accuse your spouse of abuse to diminish their chances of securing custody will be punished as an act of perjury. This applies regardless of which spouse is guilty of the crime.

#7: Interfering With the Other Parent

When custody is determined in favor of one parent over the other, it can be painful to accept, and some people might feel the urge to act questionably. Some people are unwilling to accept the situation when a judge awards custody of their child to their ex-spouse. While the mother might have been awarded visitation, she might not be satisfied when she wants full custody. That desire can lead her to lash out and try to weaponize her time with the children to turn them against the custodial parent.

Attempting to turn the child against the other parent is called parental alienation and is considered a violation of the parent's rights. The custodial or non-custodial parent can commit parental alienation.

Mother Committing Parental Alienation

However, the greatest issue is when the custodial parent tries to limit the non-custodial parent's interaction with the child. This includes canceling planned visitations and strongarming their child to avoid their other parent without reasonable cause. Interfering with the other parent's visitation rights without valid cause violates the judge's mandate and is completely illegal.

While the mother might feel empowered to limit her ex-spouse's access to their child, she does not have a say in the matter unless allowing him to see the child endangers them in some way. If this behavior is brought to the court's attention, the mother risks losing custody of the child to her ex-spouse since she is incapable of cooperating with the child's other parent.

#8: Abduction

In the most severe cases, a mother who has lost custody of her child to her ex-spouse might opt for a last-resort effort to regain custody. While it might seem strange, a parent can kidnap their own child. Most child abductions are committed by a family member who has a grievance with one or both parents. The same statistic applies to one parent abducting the child to keep them from the other.

Regardless of whether the child's mother is the custodial or non-custodial parent, it would not be difficult for her to trick her child into leaving with her. While the custodial parent can move out of the state without compromising their custody arrangement, they must confirm the move with the court to ensure it does not jeopardize the other parent's rights.

Child Abducted by a Parent

If the mother is the non-custodial parent and takes the child out of state, it is a full-fledged abduction designed to take custody away from the custodial parent forcibly. This is highly illegal and punishable by the law. Among the punishments, the mother might face a complete loss of visitation when she is apprehended and the child is returned to the custodial parent.

Additionally, any chance she might have had to petition for custody is lost since she has destroyed any good faith the court might have had in her. Even if the custodial parent is abusive, abduction invalidates any argument the spouse might have and renders her petitions void.

Learn the Law

Divorce is a deeply unpleasant and stressful situation that drains the mental and emotional levels of the people involved. This is understandable since the life you built with your spouse is ending, and you are forced to negotiate the division of assets, heirlooms, and time with your child. When custody arrangements are being decided, it can bring out the worst in both spouses' legal teams.

Most parents will fight tooth and nail to preserve custody of their child, though not all do so because they genuinely love their child. Mothers are more likely to gain full custody of the child unless the father is better equipped to raise them or if the mother is incapable of being a good parent. Either way, certain actions and behaviors could destroy the mother's attempts to secure custody of her child.

Woman Learning Divorce Law

Child custody is only one of several major details that arise in divorce negotiations, and some of these details can be more trying than others. Surviving divorce requires you to learn more about what scenarios you might encounter, so they do not blindside you during the negotiations. This knowledge might provide the edge you need to secure custody of your child, though there are no guarantees since the child's best interest supersedes all arguments. We realize this is a trying time for you, and we hope this article was helpful.

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Written By:
Michael Tierney

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