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How to Lose Custody of Your Child

How to Lose Custody of Your Child

a child of divorce

a child of divorce

This is easy to do. If you love your child, you may want to do the opposite of things on this list.

  • Do not attend court hearings about custody or visitation.
  • Ignore requests to meet with your child’s Guardian ad Litem (the lawyer appointed by a judge to learn about your child and make recommendations to the court about what would be best for your child).
  • Never meet your child’s teachers or child care providers.
  • Never attend your child’s soccer games, musical performances, or other activities.
  • Arrive late for scheduled visits with your child.
  • Return your child to the other parent late with little or no advance notice and no good reason.
  • Frequently cancel or miss scheduled visits with your child.
  • When your child is in your care, ignore the child and focus your attention on your boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Do not bother to feed your child healthful foods.
  • Ignore your child’s need for a predictable sleep schedule.
  • Never phone your child or send holiday presents to your child.
  • Curse and criticize your ex at high volume in front of your child and other witnesses.
  • Send hostile email and text messages to your ex.

You get the idea. Follow this advice, and you will make it easy for a judge to award sole legal and physical custody of your child to your ex. If you want to stay involved and have influence in your child’s life, and your ex is making that difficult, you may want to work with a family mediator and/or an attorney.


This site is for informational purposes only. Nothing here should be construed as legal advice. Virginia L Colin, Ph.D. is a Professional Family Mediator certified by the Virginia Supreme Court. She is not an attorney or a therapist. For a free consultation about whether family mediation would be helpful for you, contact Dr. Colin at or 703-864-2101.


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  1. Angela

    I dread to think how many people actually do a number of these 🙁 They seem to want the child only to get back at their ex, though I hope I’m being cynical here.

    I like the way you give this advice 🙂

    1. Virginia Colin

      Yes, it is sad that some parents emotionally neglect or even abandon their children. It is hard for me to comprehend.

  2. Juli Monroe

    While I’m sure you have seen all of these, it just amazes me that people would do these things. There’s nothing on that list that isn’t just common sense. We make a commitment when we have a child, and going through a divorce shouldn’t change that. But obviously it does for some people. *shaking head*

    1. Virginia Colin

      Maybe there is a lesson in here about having sex without appropriate family planning and birth control supplies.

      I read recently that 40% of births in the U.S. result from unplanned pregnancies. In many cases the two parents were never married to each other.

      Nevertheless, even with unplanned pregnancies and unwed partners, I have seen many dads fight to be fully involved in the child’s life, and I have seen many moms sacrifice a lot to make it possible for the child to have a full relationship with the father. For the first two years, the person who was pregnant does often have more influence if the ex-partners cannot easily agree about what is best for the child, but the other parent also has rights and obligations, and they begin on day 1, if not sooner.

  3. Joanne

    Some of these I know parents have married and divorced and some of them I think would be hard to prove.

    1. Virginia Colin

      Paternity tests are very convincing these days.

  4. Alan Jacobs

    Great posting Virginia. I shudder to think about the number of people behaving in many of these ways but oblivious to how they are affecting their children.

    1. Virginia Colin

      Thanks, Alan. I feel the same way — It is so painful for the children.

  5. Solon Vlasto

    Baffling that someone would do these things and expect anything less than losing custody. Thank you for a well done post Virginia.

  6. Peter Tromp

    It seems a bit like the old game of “blaming the victim.” that he/she is a victim as the most common reason for losing contact and custody are not the above reasons, but an unwilling residential parent using the above reasons to exclude the nonresident parent and a complete lack of mechanisms and procedures to deal with these alienating parents.

  7. Virginia Colin

    Thanks for raising that issue, Peter.

    Some of the behaviors on the list can be verified by witnesses (judge, Guardian ad Litem (GAL), teachers, day care providers, people who were standing nearby while a parent was screaming and cursing at the other parent in front of the child). Others cannot.

    For late arrivals, sudden cancellations, lack of phone calls, etc. it may come down to one parent’s word against the other’s. Sometimes both parents believe they are telling the truth, but their memories are highly selective. In other cases, one parent is lying. Discerning what is really going on can be difficult for the GAL and the judge.

    Sometimes the residential parent really is trying to cut the other parent out of the child’s life. For parents who may be victims of such attempts at parental alienation, I recommend the book Divorce Poison by Richard Warshak. The book tells you not only how to recognize the warning signs, but also what to do to protect your child as much as you can from the damage the other parent might create by trying to turn a child against you.

  8. Angus Mac Innes

    This is a good primer for caring parents. I’ve heard of all of these things happening, sad as it might seem.

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