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Gone are the days when mothers are presumed to be the "chosen parent" for physical custody. Today, all states adhere to the "best interest of the child" standard in determining both legal and physical custody of children. Courts generally believe that children mature best when both parents are active in their lives. But don't be fooled. Mothers can lose custody for a variety of reasons, and once it's gone, it may be difficult to regain.
Losing Custody By Breaking the Law
Generally, mothers lose custody of their children by either breaking the law or violating court orders. The most common legal criminal violations include drug use and possession, child abuse and neglect, and domestic violence. Courts generally believe that none of these home environments are suitable for children, and just as Child Protective Services would remove these children from such homes, courts will remove parental custody for these reasons.
Keep in mind that these criminal violations often extend to other co-habitants of the house. For instance, if a mother's partner abuses the child, either sexually or physically or verbally, the mother can lose custody of the child if the partner is not removed from the home. Generally in these instances, supervised visitation is allowed, buy physical custody is not.
Losing Custody by Violating Court Orders
In addition to breaking the law, a judge may terminate physical custody if a court order is violated. Sometimes the court order addresses tasks, such as mandatory drug testing or counseling. Other times, orders address co-parenting and visitation schedules, or methods in which parents are to communicate with one another on legal custody issues.
Though it's tempting in an emotional case, such as abusive divorces and separations, to halt communication or alienate children from their parents, avoid the temptation. Many times, one parent, often the abuser, will go to court claiming parental alienation and gain full physical custody of the child, even though the victim-parent may have alienated the child for the child's best interest. Bottom line, if you feel like it is in the best interest of your child to further limit the physical custody and communication of the other parent, go to court and ask for a modification of the current court order. Violating existing court orders can only make things worse.
If you or someone you love is concerned about losing child custody, contact a local child custody attorney. A legal adviser can best help you understand your existing rights and responsibilities, and help you get to a point that is in the best interest of your child, without risking loss of custody.