Four Reasons A Mother Could Lose Custody of Her Children

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Although child custody laws vary significantly depending on the state, courts typically decide custody hearings based on the living situation the judge believes is in the child’s best interests. The “best interests standard” as it is now known, replaced the “tender years doctrine” which dictated that a mother should retain primary custody of her children in all cases save those in which she was clearly unfit. The shift was intended to grant fathers a better opportunity of winning primary custody, but many courts still favor granting custody to the mother instead of the father. Even in areas where custody bias in favor of the mother still exists, a woman can lose custody of her children for a variety of reasons.

Child Endangerment

If a mother physically or emotionally abuses her children, or places them in danger in any way, she may lose custody. When a mother tests positive for drugs or is arrested for drug possession, the state government may intervene and revoke custody of her children – granting temporary custody either to a relative or placing the children in foster care. A previous history of child endangerment can also hurt a mother’s chances of winning a custody dispute if custody has yet to be determined.

Child endangerment isn’t restricted to abuse. In some cases, a child’s obesity can grant the state or a non-custodial parent with grounds to petition for a new custody arrangement. Although not child abuse in the traditional sense, a 2009 TIME magazine report claims that childhood obesity has resulted in custody loss in four different states.

False Allegations

If a mother enjoys primary custody of her children and the non-custodial parent or a third party accuses her of child abuse, drug use or any other activity that presents a threat to the children’s welfare, the court reserves the right to immediately remove the children from her home and revoke her custody rights while the court investigates the allegations. This occurs whether or not the allegations are legitimate. While many states levy penalties against individuals who make false accusations against a parent, this doesn’t stop all vindictive ex-spouses from making them – especially considering that intentional false allegations are challenging to prove. In addition, a child therapist who suspects possible abuse in the home may request revocation of custody and an investigation at any time without penalty.

Change in Circumstances

If a change in a mother’s circumstances causes a court to review its original decision granting her custody of her children, she may lose custody to the non-custodial parent. One example of a change in circumstances occurs if a mother chooses to move to a new state with the child. Family courts differ in the way they view out-of-state moves. Custodial parents are often required to notify non-custodial parents of the impending move in order to give the non-custodial parent an opportunity to object. Should a non-custodial parent object and the court finds no valid reason for the mother’s move, moving may result in her losing custody of her children.


Availability is a factor many courts consider when evaluating child custody disputes. If a court awarded a mother primary custody of her children, yet her work schedule leaves her unavailable the children after school and in the evenings, the non-custodial parent may petition for custody based on the mother’s limited availability to her children. The American Bar Association states that the amount of time each parent can spend with the child is a significant factor most courts consider when determining custody arrangements.

Both custodial and non-custodial parents alike should remember that custody arrangements are never set in stone. Regardless of how adept a parent a mother is, she can still lose custody of her children to either the children’s father or the state. Should the state intervene, it will attempt to place the children with a family member. If no family member is available, the children will be placed into the foster care system until the mother either regains custody or a capable family member comes forward and petitions for temporary custody.

7 Responses

  1. rena dishman says:

    The mother of my grandchildren has been arrested for possession of drugs, has been known to go to pain clinics and sell the pain meds and also buy crack. This has been brought to the attention of DCS, the sherriffs ofc of our county, and also the Dist Atty in charge of child support. The kids are ages 3 1/2 and 1 1/2.. We were also told the older of the two tested positive for some drug when she was born.

    She has been known to sell her food stamps for drug money and runs with anyone that is involved with whatever drug she needs. She tested positive for crack on a hospital visit, nothing was done, she stoled money from her grandmother who took out a warrant on her for theft, (the money was used for drugs), nothing has been done about this , as far as I know as of yet, She was arrested with her “husband” with kids in the care after midnight and taken to jail for the wknd because she had pain pills on her that were not hers, again nothing has been done. DCS has been called on them several times, at one point my husband and I taking the older one who was only a few months old at the time, for a few months, but again, the baby was given back.

    She has been known to throw herself down and beat on herself, while she was pregnant, to get my son arrested for domestic violence. And the cops have been called because she stayed out all night, and when my son left with the kids to call me to come and get them, when I arrived there the police were already there and were threatening to take my son to jail, even though he was the one who had marks on him where she had hit him. The cops allowed her to take the kids and leave without doing anything to her.

    Im not writing to help this person, Im writing to help my grandkids and get this psycho drug addicts away from my grandkids. It has been proven she is violent because I have txts , voicemails and emails where she has threatened me and told me I would pay for what I have done to my son and her kids, and as anyone knows, I have only been there for those three.

    He father and mother always pull strings to somehow get her out of whatever situation she is in, and she goes right back to doing what she wants. At this time her “husband” is living with her mother . This happened after his father died and he lost the house. Her father has or is in the process of buying this house and she and my son are living along with the kids in this house. She needs to be investigated by someone who is biased in this small town and help given to my grandkids. Me and my husband take them as often as we can. The 3 yr old lay in bed with me the last time she stayed all night and cried because she said she got up in the night and her mommy and daddy were gone, leaving her and her smaller brother alone in the house. She was also crying because she had no clothes, they couldnt find them, and they had no food. She did this from approx 1 am until around 4 am, when she finally cried herself to sleep. Whether this has happened or not, she has in her mind that it has and believes it.

    These kids are being put through hell and I cant find anyone that will help take these sweet kids away from her. She has spanked the older one for crying to come stay with us. Specific information has been given to the sheriff as to who is paying and taking her to these pain clinics, when they go and where they get their rxs filled. The man that she was going with at the time has been wanted either by the TBI or FBI, for selling and taking these people to these illegal pain clinics. Again, even with all this information, nothing has been done to her. She has not been punished, except for that wknd she spent in jail for having her “husbands” pills on her, and a family member of my husbands was in there at the time and said she had told her she was trying to bring them into the jail, but they somehow found them on her before she got to the jail. I would like to be kept anonymous in this matter because she will not let me see my grandkids if she knows im trying to give them a better life.

    We had really hoped the fraud charges would have been brought against her because of all the lies she had told them at Families First, and when she got her food stamps, and whatever else this dept deals with, but this hasnt happened. I would really like some information on how to get her caught at what she is doing because these kids do not deserve to live in and environment like this. There are also other kids involved. She has another daughter with her “husband” plus they have his brothers kids because he has been put in jail multiple times for drugs. She did, about a year or so ago, sign back over her rights to them because she didnt want them. The older daughter lives with her dad, who is living with her mother’s mom, which is also a weird situation. She doesnt want to be with her mother because she lies and leaves them without telling them where she is and when or if she will come back to get her. These kids have been left with whoever would keep them, and yes, they are drug addicts also, because that is the only kind that will have anything to do with her.

    Pls, I need some help on figuring out how to get my grandkids away from her, yes we want to take them. But, as you may know, in a small town, if you know people you can get out of anything. If you have any advice on how I can get the ball in motion as to getting some of these charges started, that should have been already have been served and her serving jail time for them, I would greatly appreciate it. I feel like my hands are tied behind my back and its breaking my heart to see my

  2. Chrissy says:

    I hope you return to see this post. GO immediately to the local court house and file for temporary emergency custody of these babies. Local law enforcement and child protective services are not going to help you or these babies. If you are sure she is doing illegal drugs, DEMAND a court ordered drug test. If she tests positive on a drug test, you will have a leg to stand on. Try to get a copy of her arrest record. It should be public information. Take it with you to the court.

    The other recourse which you should also try is to keep trying child protective services and demand to speak to a supervisor. Tell them you believe these children are in immediate danger. If they do not do anything, keep going higher and higher.

  3. Samantha Peltier says:

    My boyfriend has a little 4 year old boy with this terrible woman. She’s jumped from man to man. For the first three years of this child’s life she would rub it in his face that he might not be the father until he finally got the courage to get a DNA test done. She filled custody against him just for child support. Oh and so she can rub it in his face that she has the child. She’s already broken court order by refusing to let him see the child on his weekends and holidays just because she can. He’s paying his child support. Then she just left the state without his approval and without going to court. Also she took the child out of PreK to “Home school” him. He doesn’t know what to do. That child is his world. I’ve watched him cry over this for the past three weeks because she keeps telling him that he probably won’t see the child.
    What can he do? Please help.

  4. Debi says:

    I am a grandmother. I am on disability. On March 21,of this year I received a very disturbing call from my teen age grand daughter. She was reporting an abusive experience that she had just been in with my daughter’s boyfriend. Due to past abuse in my daughter’s home I felt that my grand daughter needed to leave immediately. She has been with me since that day.

    Of course, I called the police and CPS. We lived in a shelter because our home was no longer a refuge as imformation was being passed to the mother and used as a cover up. No evidence of the abuse, CPS case closed. A second case was opened and is currently open with CPS. We are over six months into this situation with no resolution.

    My grand daughter was not placed in my home by CPS, therefore, a lot of legal needs are not available to my grand daughter. Without custody I have not been able to enroll her in school and any medical treatment for my grand daughter is disclosed to her mother. My grand daughter was recently hospitalized for attempted suicide and did not want her mother to have access to any of this information. Rather than view my grand daughter’s suicide attempt her mother has chosen to call her daughter a liar and accuse her of manipulating everyone to cover up her drug addiction. There is NO drug addiction. My grand daughter took an overdose of 5 extacy pills so she could die HAPPY. She contemplated suicide for several months and researched the type of HIGH one might get and chose extacy as it was described to be a HAPPY high. How very sad.

    Four reasons a mother can loose custody:
    My daughter and her boyfriend have stated….if you didn’t see it …it didn’t happen……..

    I saw it and I still can’t prove it.

    Mother fights for her parent rights yet is not active in caring for her daughter. No money, no nurturing her daughter through the affects of past abuse. Mother and daughter spent 9 years (most of my grand daughter’s life) in an extremly abusive relationship. My grand daughter had the breathe choked out of her on two occassions in this relationship. My daughter was beaten beyond recognition and once was put in the trunk of the car for hours by this abuser in front of her small children. No report made. This same man was allowed to beat these children without any help from mom. The kids (three of our young family members) were raped and molested while in this relationship by the boyfriend’s son. A concerned parent reported this abuse and the son was put in prison but once released was allowed to reside in the home again. THIS EVIDENCE IS DOCUMENTED but minimized….why? Maybe it is because Mom finally removed the children from this situation.

    One year after the kids think that the nightmare is over Mom has moved in another boyfriend. We all know this guy tried to pull off a drug deal in my second daughter’s home. He shot 2 men (they survived). His character is extremely questionable andWHY is he in this home? About a year goes by everything looks ok but as for me I could sense the tention in the home. I came to live in the house with my daughter and BF and my grand children. Overwhelming experience. I should have reported the drugs while I was there. I knew when I left it was only a matter of time that I would be hearing from my grand daughter. I knew from past experience that the only way I could DO ANYTHING WAS IF ONE OF THE KIDS CRIED OUT FOR HELP. I got that cry out for help on March 21st.

    At present she is safe with me but can not go to school due to NO CUSTODY…of course I am fighting this decision with the school. I can’t help but wonder why CPS took the case at all when in the end they can not do anything about the custody issue which in my opinion is to prevent future abuse. Ok we can’t prove the abuse but given the Psychology report and counseling reports since this all started combined with the old CPS reports that clearly gives reasonable doubt to the innocence my daughter portrays.

    I have read the family law code book and can see that there are laws to protect the innocent but without money….those laws can not be enforced. I thought CPS was powerful in acting as the advocate for the child. I thought that they could get us before a judge…..I was wrong.

  5. Shak says:

    If a mother loses custody due to moving out of state and CYS is continuously being informed of the father’s drug abuse and fails multiple drug tests and finally starts to refuse to take the drug tests, wouldn’t CYS be obligated to get these children back to their mother? How can this continue to be ok?

  6. Tracy says:

    In my custody situation in 1986, it was a rebuttable presumption that mothers were the preferable custodial parent as they tended to be the primary caregivers. Even if the father had re-marked, most times the physical custody is given to the mother even where legal custody is given equally to both parents. Legal custody simply means that both parents have input into the major issues surrounding their child(ren) including issues of school, medical care and religious upbringing.

    Due ro the lingering preference given to mothers, it is uncommon for mothers to lose custody of their children. All Social Services adhere to a standard of the best interest of the child. If a court determines that a mother’s custody impedes with this standard, custody then the father will be deemed the fit parent.

    The following are just some of the reasons a mother may lose custody:

    Drug or alcohol abuse
    Obstructing visitation between the non-custodial father and the child(ren) of the marriage
    Aggression toward the Father
    Engaging in parental alienation behaviour by disparaging their father in front of the child(ren)
    Leaving the marital home and abandoning the child(ren)
    Moral inturpitude and engaging in lewd behaviour in front of the kids
    Engaged in an abusive relationship that threatens the child(ren)
    Things that fa endanger the Childs psychological state of mind and development, eg, the mother being involved in occult or cult like activity.
    Once a mother loses custody, she may find it difficult to even gain visitation rights.
    In cases of custody lost due to alcohol or drug abuse, the mother has to prove to the court that she has completed a treatment program before she can request a return of custody rights.

    I was granted non-supervised alternate weekends.

  7. katherine crabb says:

    I have three children but I lost them back 2009 the lady from Westwood apart she keep lying on me and she call DHS on me for no reason I couldn’t get no know to believe me I never did drugs or abuse my kids I always have some one watching them for me before I leave please help me get my babies back

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