How a Mother Can Lose a Custody Battle

Custody in California is not the one-sided contest that it used to be. Not so long ago, mothers were presumed to be the best caregivers and custodians, and fathers who wanted custody faced an uphill battle that could prove nearly impossible to win.

Those days are gone. Mothers can and do lose custody battles all the time. When parents do not agree explicitly on custody arrangements for their children–if there are any issues of a parenting plan under dispute–it is vital for both parents to work with an attorney who is prepared to present the best legal arguments to support their goals. Emotional pleas used to carry some weight in custody proceedings, but in the courtroom today, excessive emotion may work against you rather than in your favor.

As experienced custody attorneys, our team has seen numerous situations where poor strategy, foolish behavior, and even simple mistakes have caused a mother to lose in a custody battle. Here are some of the most common mistakes and how you can avoid them.

Making False Accusations

In their attempts to gain or hang onto custody, mothers sometimes resort to falsely accusing the other parent of child abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, or parental alienation. When the other parent’s attorney is able to show that the allegations are false and the mother knew she was making unfounded accusations, this makes her look vicious and unreliable.

While it can be difficult to prove that a parent who is engaged in a custody battle knowingly made false accusations, when an attorney is able to present the evidence persuasively, it can make a tremendous impression on the court. Judges do not like to have someone attempt to trick them, so false accusations can backfire and cause a mother to lose custody.

Child Abuse

Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from a mother can put her on the losing side of a custody battle. Sometimes parents will allege that their child needs discipline, but the “corrective” actions they take go far beyond what is warranted or safe. Abuse often stems from an inability to control angry impulses. A child who is close at hand—and who is not likely to fight back—can be a convenient scapegoat when a parent is feeling frustrated and out of control. Often, mothers who hit or otherwise abuse their children suffered from the same type of abuse in their own childhoods, and the process seems almost natural.

Violation of Court Orders

Just as judges do not like to be lied to, they also do not like their orders to be ignored. When a court issues an order about anything, from a temporary custody plan to child support to a restraining order, if a mother fails to follow the terms of the order and does not offer a very good excuse for doing so, she can lose a custody battle. Violating a court order shows that someone lacks proper respect for the law and cannot be trusted to follow legal requirements.

Parental Alienation

Mothers often engage in some form of parental alienation tactics—sometimes without even realizing it. Parental alienation involves efforts to damage or destroy a child’s relationship with the other parent. Sometimes, this occurs through actions and language that very subtly send a message that the child is not safe with the other parent or that the other parent does not love them.

Other times, parental alienation involves more obvious actions, such as constantly blaming the other parent for problems, refusing to give the other parent information about the child’s schedule, preventing the child from speaking with the other parent, and removing all evidence of the other parent, including gifts from that parent. Courts take allegations of parental alienation very seriously, so when they are presented with persuasive evidence that a mother is engaging in parental alienation, she can lose custody.

Demonstrating Lack of Fitness in Other Ways

Courts usually want a child to have access to both parents, so they must see serious evidence that a parent is unfit before they will deny custody. Unfortunately, some mothers provide that evidence by making some poor choices. Refusing to seek serious help for a substance abuse problem is probably one of the most common ways a mother can demonstrate that she is not fit to take care of her child. Living with a partner who has a history of domestic violence or child abuse is another was to demonstrate that a mother is not prepared to parent safely.

Mental health issues can cause a mother to lose custody if she does not seek treatment that is sufficient to control the condition. Neglecting a child by leaving the child unattended or placing the child in someone else’s care for extended periods can also provide grounds for losing custody.

Holstrom, Block & Parke Can Help You Succeed in a Custody Battle

Parents who want to obtain and keep custody of their children need to seek advice from an experienced attorney and then follow that advice to the letter. Failure to do so could cause them to give the impression that they are not fit to parent the child, and the other parent could be given full custody for the child’s safety.

At Holstrom, Block & Parke, APLC, our team has over 300 collective years of experience helping parents gain the custody arrangements that best meet the needs of their children. For a free, confidential consultation to learn more about how we can help you win a custody battle, contact us today.

Professional Legal Help

Our attorneys are waiting to help you

Our Locations

*We do not receive postal correspondence at this address. Please send any desired material to our Corona office for review and distribution.


The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.