Even though fathers are gaining custody in 50 percent of divorce cases, there are still reasons fathers lose custody of their children.
In the past, mothers automatically received custody simply because they were the primary caretakers, but not anymore. Approximately 50% of all custody cases today end with the father getting sole custody, but there are still some ways that fathers can lose custody of their children if they aren’t careful.
The top 4 reasons fathers lose custody include child abuse or neglect, substance abuse, exposing the children to overnight guests, or not following the right of first refusal agreement.
Child abuse is the number one reason that a parent loses custody of their children. Abuse can be anything from physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, or even leaving a child in a car unattended. If there is a history of abuse by a parent against any child, then that will be brought to light in the custody hearings. Signs of child abuse include scars, bruises, cuts, marks, broken bones, or even outbursts or behavioral changes from the child. If the father has ever initiated inappropriate sexual behavior toward any child, he could lose custody of his children. Even past anger issues may be introduced in court. Keep in mind that both legal and physical custody can be lost because of child abuse.
Substance abuse of any kind does not go over well in family court – drugs, alcohol, even cigarettes or vaping can be considered substance abuse. Casual use of alcohol or drugs can make it difficult to win custody, especially if there are witnesses to such behavior. If a father has any official charges against him such as reckless endangerment or DWIs, then winning custody of a child will be even more difficult. For example, in California, the family code specifies that the court shall consider “the habitual or continual illegal use of controlled substances, the habitual or continual abuse of alcohol, or the habitual or continual abuse of prescribed controlled substances by either parent” as a reason to deny custody. (Note that this also includes prescribed controlled substances such as painkillers, opioids, etc. as well as the social drinking habits of a parent.)
The third reason that fathers lose custody has to do with overnight guests and who or what your children may be exposed to. Custody orders will be very specific about this issue. The father’s lifestyle definitely matters. The court and the judge will be looking to see how they conduct themselves as a soon-to-be single man where your children are concerned. If the father starts dating before the divorce is final and allows guests to stay overnight – this could damage his custody case if friends or family testify to such behavior. Because children are involved, the court orders are usually very specific about this subject; if he brings strange women home, the court may be disinclined to give him custody of the children.
The fourth reason fathers may lose custody of their children has to do with what is called the “right of first refusal” clause. (This clause is not present in every custody agreement and must be specifically added in order for it to apply, which can create tension between co-parents.) The right of first refusal means that one parent must first offer the other parent the chance to look after their kids before arranging for a babysitter or another family member to care for the children. This applies to both planned and last-minute scenarios as well as other instances such as doctor’s appointments, vacations, or daycare arrangements. If a father leaves his kids with a neighbor or a family member without the mother being notified or asked first, he could potentially lose custody of his children. The courts want the kids to be able to spend as much time as possible with both of their parents, thus the right of first refusal clause. It is meant to give both parents as much time with their children as possible.
The bottom line is that raising a child is a team effort even in the face of divorce or separation. The judge will decide based on the best interests of the child and will consider how the two parents are co-parenting, so it’s in your favor to avoid some of the issues mentioned here.
If you suspect that your spouse has engaged in any of the above behaviors, you may need documented proof to bring these issues to light in a courtroom. Consider hiring a private investigator to uncover that information instead of doing it yourself.
Professional surveillance is essential to determine people’s patterns, where they go, who they spend time with, and whether they are involved in illegal or illicit activities (such as gambling, drug abuse, reckless driving, drunk driving, alcoholism, criminal behavior or any other behaviors that might make them unsuitable as parents). It’s worth the investment in order to protect your children.