Having your children taken away from you is one of a parent’s worst fears. Parties to a divorce often worry that they may lose their rights to access the child or make decisions regarding their upbringing. So, how can a parent lose custody of their children?
No court is going to take your child away for not being a perfect parent. It’s only when a parent’s mistakes become patterns of conduct that endanger the child’s welfare that a Texas court will step in to protect their best interests.
Are you involved in a child custody dispute? Contact the attorneys at The Larson Law Office today.
What Does It Mean to Lose Custody of a Child in Texas?
In Texas, parents lose custody when a court either strips them of their conservatorship rights or denies them unsupervised possession of the child. Note that on many occasions, a parent stripped of rights can still see the child if visitation is supervised by the other parent or a court-approved third party.
What follows is a discussion of the most common ways to lose custody in Texas.
1. Child Abuse
Of all the ways to lose custody in Texas, child abuse is the most tragic. When a parent physically or emotionally abuses their child, Texas courts will typically award sole custody to the other parent.
Child abuse is often defined as any non-accidental harm to a child caused by a parent or caregiver. Physical child abuse can include whipping, punching, slapping, burning, choking, throwing, shoving, or any other act that results in injury to the child.
Note that Texas courts don’t consider spanking a form of abuse unless it injures the child.
Sexual abuse occurs when a parent or caregiver uses a child for sexual purposes. In addition, courts will strip a parent of their custody rights where they knowingly expose the child to a third party that uses the child for sexual purposes.
Emotional abuse comes in many forms, including withholding affection, shaming the child, excessive punishment, ridicule, or isolating the child from others. Courts may be especially vigilant to emotional abuse in cases where one parent has a history of mental illness or substance abuse.
2. False Allegations of Child Abuse
Unfortunately, false allegations of abuse are a common occurrence. Courts will regard it as a deceitful attempt to disrupt custody proceedings or leverage a favorable custody determination.
3. Child Abduction
Otherwise known as “parental kidnapping,” and “custodial interference,” intentionally interfering with the other parent’s custody rights may, under some circumstances, be treated as a crime.
Note that this requires more than simply keeping the child longer than scheduled on a single occasion.
An example could be where one parent takes the child across state lines with the intent of relocating to a new residence, and without permission.
4. Child Neglect
This is a very broad category. It includes pervasive failures to provide the child with adequate supervision, healthcare, a proper diet, a bathroom, adequate clothing, a safe and sanitary living environment, and any other necessities of life.
It also includes leaving the child alone with harmful third parties, as well as truancy (chronic, unexcused absence from school).
5. Domestic Violence
This includes not only violence toward the child, but also violence against others the child is exposed to. This includes spouses, other siblings, and even pets.
6. Violating a Child Custody Order
Child custody orders are legal mandates that each parent must follow or risk contempt of court. While technical and infrequent violations may occur, courts will step in vigorously when violations become pervasive, such as one parent’s persistent willful refusal to exchange the child at the designated location and time.
7. Parental Alienation
This occurs where one parent emotionally manipulates the child into distrusting or disliking the other parent. Like neglect, the harm might not be obvious until years later.
Parental alienation cases commonly require expert testimony from a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist.
8. Refusal to Co-Parent
When one parent’s refusal to cooperate substantially negatively impacts the child’s health, safety, education, or general welfare, a court may entertain a petition to modify custody based on a material and substantial change in circumstances.
9. Chronic Substance Abuse
When a parent is chronically dependent on drugs or alcohol, a court may remove the child from the home or require supervised visitation until that parent can demonstrate they are not a threat to the safety and welfare of the child.
10. Issues with Mental Health
Many people suffer from mental illness. However, a parent may lose custody if their mental condition poses a risk to the child’s safety or will cause them to neglect the child.
Questions About Child Custody or Losing Custody in Texas?
If you are involved in a child custody dispute, you will need the help of knowledgeable and experienced legal representation in family court. Call the child custody lawyers at The Larson Law Office today at 713-221-9088 or fill out our contact form to schedule your complimentary consultation.