Faupel Musser Love, P.C.

Child custody concerns: When could a parent lose custody?

Michigan family law courts will always make decisions that are in the best interest of the children involved. Usually, in the case of a divorce, the best interest of the child involves him or her being able to spend as much time as possible with both parents. For this reason, courts will almost always award joint legal custody -- and, in many cases, joint physical custody -- to both parents.

At the very least, even if the child lives full time with the custodial parent, the non-custodial parent will receive joint legal custody so he or she can play a role in making important decisions about the child's life, in addition to having regular and frequent visitations rights. It's only in rare circumstances that a biological parent would lose all of these parental rights. Nevertheless, it can happen.

Here are some circumstances that have caused parents to lose custody in the past:

Overly strict punishment styles: Parents have lost custody in the past due to their overly strict punishment styles. If a parent is seen hitting a child or verbally berating the child in a caustic fashion, it could be construed as abuse and grounds for taking away his or her parental rights.

Domestic violence: A parent who has a history of domestic violence could lose his or her right to spend unfettered time with the children.

Parental child abduction: Parents who take their children without permission, and parents who violate their child custody orders could be guilty of child abduction. Parental child abductions may be grounds for taking away a parent's right to see and spend time with his or her children.

Not honoring the other parent's decision-making rights: When parents share legal custody, they need to consult one another about important decisions relating to religion, schooling, medical care, discipline and more. Failure to consult the other parent is grounds for the revocation of the parent's legal custody rights.

Child abandonment: Parents must arrange for their children to be cared for when they are unable to provide that care directly. A court could view a parent who leaves his or her child home alone to be guilty of child abandonment, and this is grounds for stripping the parent of his or her parental rights.

Substance abuse and criminal activity: A parent who has a substance abuse problem or a record of criminal activity could be a danger to the child, and a court might take away that parent's custody.

When a Michigan court decides that a parent is not fit to care for his or her child or children, taking away legal child custody and parental rights is usually the last resort. In many cases, courts will still want the child to see and spend time with the other parent, but the court might order supervised visitations to ensure the child is safely cared for.

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