Most parents with minor children who divorce will share custody afterward. Shared parental responsibilities and divided parenting time not only alleviate the pressure of parenting for each parent but can also help protect the relationship between parents and children.
Many couples organize their own custody agreements outside of court. However, some individuals will have to litigate custody matters because they feel worried about the safety of their children. Even if both parents want to assert parental rights, there are certain scenarios that might lead to the courts awarding one parent full custody to better protect the children.
What are common reasons for a judge to award one parent full custody at the cost of the other’s access to the children?
When there is a documented family history of abuse
Divorce often starts because one parent mistreats the other or the children. Parents who file for divorce because of domestic violence will need corroborating evidence to support their claims.
However, if there are medical records, police reports or other official documents that support a parent’s claims of domestic violence, family law judges may limit how much access the abusive parent has to the children.
When substance abuse affects one parent’s behavior
Addiction can turn an otherwise loving and responsible adult into someone who cannot see beyond their own short-term desires. If your spouse has struggled with alcohol, prohibited substances or prescription medication, they may not be able to safely parent on their own. The courts may agree to award them visitation rather than custody so that their substance abuse does not put the children in danger.
When there is evidence of neglect, abandonment or health issues
Sometimes, perfectly healthy adults choose not to engage in parental responsibilities. A negligent parent might not notice when their children play with lighters or fill a bathtub, for example, both of which could lead to tragic consequences.
A parent who has previously abandoned their children or family could potentially do so again, leaving the children unattended and in a precarious position. Even issues with physical or mental health could limit a parent’s ability to provide for their children safely.
Recognizing when your family circumstances might put your children at risk if you share custody can help you better defend them in your divorce proceedings.