Written by Canterbury Law Group

Reasons a Father Can Lose Custody of His Children


Decades ago, mothers were automatically granted custody simply because they were the principal caretakers, but that is not the case anymore. An estimated 50% of all custody cases today end with the father receiving sole custody, but there are still ways that fathers can lose custody of their children if they’re not careful.

The top 4 reasons fathers can lose custody include child abuse or neglect, substance or drug abuse, having overnight guests shown to the children, or not following the right of first refusal arrangement.

1. Child Abuse

Child abuse is the main reason that a parent can lose custody of their children. Abuse can be everything from physical abuse, sexual abuse, inattention, or even leaving a child in a car unaccompanied. If there is any history of abuse by a parent against any child, they will be brought to light in custody hearings. Signs of child abuse include scaring, bruises, cuts, marks, broken bones, or strange outbursts or even behavioral changes from the child. If a father has ever instituted inappropriate sexual behavior toward any child, he can lose custody of his children. Even anger issues from the past may be made known in court. Take into account that physical and legal custody can be taken away because of child abuse.

2. Substance Abuse

Substance abuse of any kind doesn’t go over well in family courts – drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or even vaping can be considered substance abuse. Even occasional use of alcohol or drugs can make it hard to win custody, particularly if there are witnesses to such behavior. If a father has any official charges against him such as careless endangerment or DUIs, then winning custody of a child will be even harder. (Note this will also include prescribed controlled substances like painkillers, opioids, as well as the social drinking use of a parent.). Your opposing spouse will ask the Court to order immediate drug and alcohol testing and if you fail those tests, getting child custody is going to be far more challenging than you may have realized.  Get a top attorney in your corner and change your bad habits immediately.

3. Exposure to Overnight Guests

The third reason that fathers can lose custody deals with overnight guests and who or what their children are exposed to. Custody orders will be very clear cut about this issue. Both parent’s lifestyle unquestionably matters. The court and the judge court will be observing to see how they behave themselves as an upcoming single man where your children are concerned. If the father begins to date before the divorce is finalized and having guests stay overnight –may damage his custody case if friends or family can bear witness to such behavior. Since children are involved, the court orders are typically very specific about this subject; if he brings unusual or strange women home, the court may be reluctant to give him custody of the children.  Ideally, do not start any romantic relationships when going through a custody battle.

4. Right To Refusal Clause

The fourth reason fathers can lose custody of their children has to do with what is known as the “right of first refusal” clause. (This clause is not available in every custody agreement and has to be added in order for it to apply, which can create strain between co-parents.) The right of first refusal means that one parent must first offer the other parent the chance to look after the children before arranging for a sitter or another member of the family to care for them. This applies to both planned and last-minute situations as well as other instances like dentist’s appointments, vacations, or daycare arrangements. If the father leaves his kids with a neighbor or a family member without the mother knowing or being asked beforehand, he could possibly lose custody of his children. The courts want the kids to spend as much time as possible with both biological parents, therefore the right of first refusal clause.

Basically, raising a child is a joint effort even in the face of divorce or separation. The judge will determine based on the best interests of the child or children and will examine how the two parents are co-parenting.


Giglio, Darrin. “4 Reasons Fathers Lose Custody During And After Divorce · Divorced Moms.” Divorced Moms, 8 June 2018, divorcedmoms.com/reasons-fathers-lose-custody.

Read More About:

Child Visitation Rights For Fathers

What Rights Does A Father Have To See His Child?

Child Custody Battles Between Unmarried Parents

What Are The Chances Of A Father Getting Full Custody?

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*This information is not intended to be used as legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs. 480-744-7711 or [email protected]

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