How Easy Is It for a Parent to Lose Physical Custody?

Common Reasons That You Might Lose Custody of Your Child

The majority of divorces in which the spouses have children lead to split custody because, in most cases, the courts try to let the child see both their parents. However, there are situations where a willing parent may lose physical custody of their child.

Child Abuse

A child custody decision is all about making sure that the child is cared for as well as possible. Therefore, any sort of mental, physical, sexual, emotional, or financial abuse can be grounds for losing custody. During custody battles, abuse doesn’t need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Any credible allegation that makes the court think a child is at risk can be enough to give custody to the other parent. Most people think of abuse as being a parent who punches their child. However, it can come in many forms, including:

  • Spankings that leave bruises
  • Shaking babies
  • Constantly belittling or shaming a child
  • Frequent yelling and screaming at a child
  • Charging a child money for necessities like food
  • Touching the child inappropriately or exposing them to inappropriate content
  • Confining the child in small spaces

Lack of a Suitable Living Location

Unfortunately, some parents are loving and attentive, but circumstances mean that they are not capable of caring for the child. If having physical custody means putting the child in an unsafe environment, a parent might end up losing child custody. Some common examples include situations where the parent:

  • Is evicted and cannot find a new place to live, which can happen even with child support
  • Is a hoarder or doesn’t clean the house properly
  • Insists on living “off-the-grid” in a home without running water or electricity
  • Cannot pay for essentials like heat during the winter
  • Does not fix a home after a storm or other disaster leaves it unfit to live in

If this happens, the court may remove custody until the parent is back on their feet and is better able to care for the child.

Neglect of the Child’s Basic Needs

A parent is expected to meet all of a child’s basic needs for living. This includes making sure that the child has access to:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Medical care
  • Schooling
  • Supervision by an adult
  • Personal care

If a parent neglects any of these needs, they may end up losing custody. This can happen in a variety of ways, such as a parent not making dinner for a child or failing to take a sick child to a doctor. It can also occur when the parent is not providing enough support or supervision. Leaving a very young child without anyone to care for them can also count as neglect, even if it’s because the parent has to go to work.

False Allegations of Abuse or Neglect

Some parents may attempt to get full custody by making false claims about why the other parent does not deserve to have custody. This is both illegal and highly problematic. It often involves pressuring the child to make false claims or using manipulative tactics to convince the child that a parent is abusive. The court views false allegations as both criminal behavior and a type of parental alienation. Therefore, if there is proof that the parent intentionally made false allegations, that person is very likely to end up losing custody altogether.

Refusal to Follow Co-parenting Arrangements

The court typically frowns on parents who are not following previously agreed-upon arrangements. When parents agree to a formal co-parenting arrangement, they are agreeing to work together to suit the child’s best interests. A parent who refuses to cooperate may endanger the child or their relationship with their other parent. Even behaviors that are not enough to usually remove custody can become an issue in some cases. Eventually, this can lead to removal of child custody. Failure to follow co-parenting arrangements can come in many forms, including:

  • Refusing to provide any discipline or guidance in serious problems like a child who shoplifts
  • Not enrolling the child in a specific school or helping a child with their homework
  • Refusing to teach the child about their religion or culture
  • Not giving the child agreed-upon medications or other treatment
  • Taking away a child’s pets

Failure to Follow Previous Child Custody Arrangements

Just like co-parenting arrangements, child custody arrangements are also taken very seriously by the court. A parent who does not follow them is a risk to the child because their disregard shows that they may fail in other parts of child care. Any time a parent refuses to follow their custody arrangement or shows signs that they won’t follow custody later on, they put their custody at risk. Examples include:

  • Not dropping the child off with the other parent at the agreed upon time
  • Picking the child up from school on days the other parent has custody
  • Not responding to calls or messages when they fail to give the child to the other parent
  • Making plans to take the child to another country and not return
  • Taking the child on lengthy vacations without permission from the other parent

Attempting to Alienate the Child From Their Other Parent

Parental alienation occurs when one parent takes actions to make the child dislike their other parent. They might do things like tell the child their other parent doesn’t love them anymore, or they might try to bribe the child with toys and treats. Often, serious parental alienation can include one parent making up hateful messages or blocking phone calls from the other parent. Alienation is a type of child abuse because it puts a child’s mental well-being at risk. If a parent is so committed to alienation that they cannot be trusted with the child, they might end up losing custody.

Living Conditions That Put the Child at Risk

If one parent is worried that the other’s behavior puts the child’s safety at risk, their divorce lawyer can petition the court to remove custody. Examples of potentially dangerous living conditions include situations where a parent:

  • Dates a known sex offender
  • Deals or uses drugs in the home they live in with the child
  • Forces an older child to share a bedroom with a sibling of the opposite gender
  • Allows strangers to stay overnight
  • Fails to lock up drugs, alcohol, or other dangerous substances
  • Lives in an RV and parks it in unsafe spots like random parking lots

The Child Doesn’t Want to Live With the Parent Anymore

Technically speaking, New Jersey doesn’t let children choose which parent to live with until they are 18. However, as children get older, the court usually starts to take their wishes into account. Since their decision is based on the best interests of the child, they might not want to force the child to live with a parent that they don’t get along with.

There are a lot of reasons for a parent to lose physical custody of a child. If you are dealing with a tense custody situation, it’s a good idea to get some input from an experienced divorce lawyer. The Law Office of Kelly Berton Rocco can assist you with custody issues or removing your child from an unsafe situation. To learn more about your options, fill out our contact form or call us at 201-343-0078.

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