It is a myth that courts always prefer women as legal guardians. Although the majority of single-parent homes have women at the helm, it is not unheard of for a judge to decide that it is in the best interest of the children to be with their father.

In 2019, there were about 290,000 single-father households in the UK. Not all of these fathers have an abusive ex-wife or partner. However, hundreds of mothers lose their custody rights every year due to preventable factors. Here are a few things a family law solicitor would warn against while a custody contest is ongoing.


1. Physical or emotional abuse

A mother who inflicts excessive force on her children, including acts like hitting, biting, kicking, burning, or others, will lose custody of her children. Note, though, that this can reflect poorly on a father who knew about the abuse but did not report it immediately. In this case, Social Services could take custody instead.

Aside from physical abuse, emotional abuse is also grounds for termination of the guardianship. A mother who continuously berates or harasses her children, or one who manipulates them into disliking the other parent, can lose custody of her offspring. If this is the defence a father wishes to adopt, he needs to have witnesses unrelated to either of them to testify in court.


2. Ignoring visitation rights

Partial custody grants the non-custodial partner visitation rights. If the mother interferes with these, she could lose custody of her children. It could mean anything that prevents the father from seeing his children, from scheduling trips on visitation days, to changing addresses without notifying him.

To use this defence in court, a father should have proof that these are deliberate attempts at sabotaging his relationship with his children. Logs of visits, communications, and other details are useful in building his case.


3. Gross parental neglect

It is challenging to prove neglect on its own, but it is possible. Consistent neglect can and will be noticed by other adults around the child, like daycare workers or the child’s teachers.

Note that the court will overlook minor infractions like a mother forgetting to pack a meal once. Constant neglect, though, is different from a single forgotten lunch box or play date. A good family solicitor can help you determine if there is negligence.

Extreme leniency at the custodial parent’s house could be the basis for a charge of parental neglect. This is especially so if the father can prove that the lack of rules implicitly encourages failure at school or dependence on alcohol or other substances.


4. Drug or alcohol addiction

A mother who is struggling with alcohol or drug dependency may have her custody rights terminated by the court. The children’s removal from her care becomes even more urgent if her addiction causes physical or sexual abuse.

Emotional abuse or endangerment—drunk driving, for instance—can also be grounds for termination. A mother might retain custody, though, if she agrees to addiction treatment or counselling.



Even if you have custody of your offspring, your ex can reverse the court’s decision and revoke your rights to care. Any individual circumstance can be used to build a case, and many mothers lose custody of their children from preventable factors.

For legal advice in custody cases, seek the services of Family Law & Mediation. We are a progressive group of family law solicitors specialising in civil mediation, arbitration, child arrangements, and the like. Schedule a consultation today for more details with Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors.


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