Parents who have already been issued a child custody court order after their California divorce sometimes assume the issue is entirely and irrevocably settled. Even if the court has already established child custody arrangements, it is possible to lose custody in certain situations. California family law courts are not eager to strip any parent of their child custody rights, but the court’s priority in every case is the safety and well being of the child or children involved. California parents who have been through or who are going through a divorce should be aware of what actions or situations could result in a loss of custody. Child Abuse May Cause a Parent to Lose Custody of a Child: If a parent is physically, emotionally, or sexually abusing their child, it is highly likely that they will lose custody. The chances of losing custody are also high if a parent is allowing someone else to abuse their child. Child Neglect May Cause a Parent to Lose Custody of a Child: A parent with custody of their child is responsible for making sure a responsible adult supervises the child, that they are clothed appropriately, educated, fed, clean, and being generally cared for as the court would deem appropriate. If a parent is not fulfilling these primary responsibilities, the court may recognize the action (or lack of action) as child neglect; which could result in a loss of custody. Substance Abuse May Cause a Parent to Lose Custody of a Child: If a parent abuses or is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they could lose custody of their child. As a parent, the court expects you to be able to meet the needs of your child, and parents under the influence of drugs or alcohol or who are spending all their available funds on these addictive substances are very likely not providing effective parenting. Domestic Violence May Cause a Parent to Lose Custody of a Child: Violence toward anyone can land a parent in trouble when seeking to gain or keep child custody. If a parent abuses their partner, another child in the home, their parent, or anyone else the court may consider it an indication that they are not emotionally stable enough to keep their child safe from harm. Parental Alienation May Cause a Parent to Lose Custody of a Child: Bad mouthing the child’s other parent or attempting to undermine the other parent’s relationship with a child is called parental alienation, and the court may respond strongly if they see signs this is occurring. Parents who indulge in parental alienation tend to leave their children feeling guilty, hurt, angry, and devastated. It is a form of emotional abuse, and many judges have cited it as a reason to remove a child from a parent’s custody. Violating Custody Orders May Cause a Parent to Lose Custody: If there are custody orders in place, and a parent violates them, the court could interpret this as an unwillingness to abide by the custody order. If there are extenuating circumstances, timely communication with the other parent is prudent. Appropriate communication can help avoid the appearance of willfully violating the order or refusing to allow the other parent their court-ordered visitation. When this situation occurs, try to document the communication in case there are any problems at a later date. Purposefully denying the other parent their visitation or taking the child away from their other parent in opposition to court orders could result in the loss of custody. Untreated Mental Illness May Cause a Parent to Lose Custody: Parents with a variety of different health conditions are capable of taking care of their children, as long as they are receiving appropriate treatment. Some parents avoid addressing mental illness for fear of losing their children, but the most prudent action to take as a parent with a mental illness seeking to get or keep child custody is to obtain appropriate treatment. It is also vital to document your treatments in case the court requests the information. Unsafe Housing May Cause a Parent to Lose Custody: Parents need to live with their child in a place that is both appropriate and safe. This does not mean a parent needs to own their own home or live in the nicest part of town, but the court does expect a parent to provide their child with a safe place to reside. Make sure you can offer it even if that means moving in with relatives or a motel room. If you are concerned about losing custody of your child or if you need to file for a California divorce, please get in touch with one of the experienced California divorce attorneys at The Maggio Law Firm today.
Attorney Gerald Maggio