Can a Mother Lose Custody of a Child? kid confused, divorce and child custody concept

Can a Mother Lose Child Custody?

patrickcrawford | October 18, 2021

Many people still assume that a mother has an automatic advantage in a child custody case. However, this has not been true in Maryland family courts for some time. The court will always look at what custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child – which, in most cases, involves both parents sharing custody. In some situations, a father might be awarded primary custody if the court believes this is the best arrangement for the child. 


If you are a mother seeking custody of your child or a father who believes that your child’s mother should not have custody, you should not wait to speak with an Annapolis child custody lawyer from The Law Office of Patrick Crawford. Contact us for help with an initial custody case or if you think you might need a modification of your existing custody order.

How Courts Determine Custody

The idea that a family judge will automatically award a mother custody rights is a misconception in modern-day family law. Fathers should be on equal footing with mothers when heading into a custody case. There is no longer a presumption that a mother should have custody over a father, so a judge must consider both parents when deciding custody.


There are only two situations in which a mother can get custody automatically:

  1. If the parents were never married and paternity was not legally established, the mother will have full custody until the father seeks to establish paternity and seeks custody.
  2. If a father fails to abide by existing custody orders, the mother will have custody of the child.


Outside of these circumstances, fathers have a chance to gain full or partial custody rights, and mothers should not take it for granted that they will win a custody battle.

Seeking Custody Rights

Whether you are getting divorced or were never married to your child’s other parent, it is important to actively participate in custody cases and fight for your parental rights to spend time with your child. This entails hiring an experienced Annapolis custody lawyer who knows how to present the strongest possible case to the family court.

Shared Custody

If you and your ex are both fit parents, it is likely that the court will award shared custody rights to you both. Whether you are a mother or a father, if you want to have your child living with you half of the time – or at least a good portion of the time – you need to properly make this known during your family law case. If your child’s mother is fighting for full custody and wants to keep the kids away from you, get ready to stand up for your rights with the help of your attorney.


A custody lawyer can present evidence to the court that your child would benefit from having a continuing relationship with you. With the right case, you can gain shared custody rights in most situations.

Seeking Full Custody

There are some situations in which one parent might seek full custody, which would limit the other parent’s custody rights. They might only get visitation rights, which is different from shared custody.


If a mother is seeking full custody, she will need to prove that the father is a risk to the child’s well-being and unfit to parent. This is a high bar with the court, and mothers in this situation should have concrete evidence to show why the court should limit a father’s custody rights.


On the other hand, fathers can seek full custody of their children, as well, which would mean the mother would lose her custody. There are only a few situations in which the court will grant full custody to a father (or one parent over the other in general):


  1. The parent engaged in child abuse or neglect
  2. The parent tried to abduct the child
  3. The parent attempted to keep the child away from the other parent by denying visitation or access to the child
  4. The parent engaged in parental alienation
  5. The parent has a substance abuse problem or mental illness that makes them a risk to the child’s health and well-being
  6. The parent is incarcerated


Often, the family court will grant at least partial custody rights to a mother unless the other parent proves that the mother is unfit and puts the child at risk.

Custody Modifications

After your divorce, the court will issue a custody order based on your circumstances at the time of the divorce. Inevitably, circumstances will change over time, and sometimes, circumstances change significantly enough that a custody modification might be warranted. Either parent can file a petition to modify custody, and some fathers might file a petition to modify seeking full custody.


To successfully obtain a modification, a parent must demonstrate that:


  1. There has been a significant change in circumstances that makes the modification necessary.
  2. The modification would be in the best interests of the child.


If a father is seeking full custody, which would take away the mother’s custody, he also must prove that spending time with the mother is not in the child’s best interests. This is a difficult thing to prove, and anyone considering such a petition should first speak with a child custody attorney.

Sharing Custody after a Paternity Case

As mentioned, a mother will automatically get full custody rights if the legal paternity of the child is not established. However, if the father petitions to establish paternity and is successful, the father can then request custody rights to the child. A mother might lose her full custody right and have to share custody moving forward. Both parents should have custody attorneys for paternity cases since their custody rights are at risk.


Even though a mother might have to give up her full custody, it can be beneficial for a child to share time and have meaningful relationships with both parents. However, each parent should make sure the child is getting the care and attention they need when they are with the other parent.

When to Call a Custody Lawyer

Anytime custody is on the line, the matter should be taken extremely seriously, whether you are a mother or a father. You should contact a family lawyer if any of the following are true:


  1. You are getting divorced, and you share minor children with your spouse
  2. You are seeking a child custody modification
  3. Your child’s other parent is seeking a custody modification
  4. You want to establish paternity and seek custody rights
  5. You are a mother, and someone is trying to establish paternity and seek custody


You should contact a lawyer right away if you are in any of these situations, and you should feel free to call one if you simply have questions or concerns about custody and your parental rights.


How Can a Mother Lose Child Custody of Her Child?


Even if a mother initially gains full or partial custody of her child, there are several different situations that could put that arrangement in jeopardy. The co-parent can decide to take the mother back to court or file a petition to change a child custody arrangement for a variety of different reasons. A mother should always have representation from an Annapolis child custody attorney


Scenarios in Which a Mother Can Lose Child Custody

Some of the scenarios that could result in a change of child custody in which the mother loses full or partial custody rights include but are not limited to:


  • The mother is unfit – Determining that a mother is unfit to take care of her children is one of the most common reasons that mothers lose child custody. This means the mother is unable to provide a reasonable level of care for her children. Often, it is a co-parent, teacher, or friend who notices troubling behavior that could be putting the children in danger. Some examples of behavior that may indicate a mother is unfit include abuse, abandonment, and neglect.
  • The mother has been making dangerous medical decisions – A bit more specific than the general issue of being unfit; in some cases, mothers deny their children needed medical care or pretend that their children are ill in order to receive special attention. This behavior has a clinical diagnosis called Munchausen syndrome by proxy and is a dangerous issue for the children involved. 
  • The mother lives with a partner who is unsafe – If the mother is living with a new partner who has a criminal record, a record of child abuse, or has been reported to display dangerous behavior with the children around, this could be grounds for a change in custody. If the court determines that this is an unsafe environment for children, the mother could lose custody temporarily or permanently. 
  • The mother has been making false accusations about the co-parent – The courts could determine that the mother is causing mental anguish for her children if she continuously speaks disparagingly or tells lies about the co-parent in an attempt to alienate them.


What to Expect if a Mother Loses Custody of Her Child

Suppose the court determines that a mother should lose custody of her children because she is unfit to take care of them and they are in a dangerous or unhealthy situation. In that case, custody is typically awarded to the other parent. This means that the co-parent will become the children’s sole legal and physical custodian. 


If a mother’s parental rights have not been fully terminated, she may come back to the court and petition for custody of her children again. For example, if she is struggling with addiction but then finds treatment and becomes healthy again, a mother could go to court and request a change to the custody agreement.


That said, it is challenging to convince the court once again to change custody once they have determined that the mother is not mentally or physically able to provide a reasonable level of care for her children. For this reason, it is helpful to speak with an experienced child custody attorney. 

Speak with an Annapolis Child Custody Attorney

The Law Office of Patrick Crawford represents clients who are mothers and fathers, and we stand up for their parental rights. If you are facing any type of custody matter, the right legal representation can mean you can continue to have a relationship with your child. Contact us online or call (410) 216-7905 to discuss your case and whether our Annapolis custody attorney can assist you. We are ready to help.

How Can Patrick Help You?

Tell him about your legal issue and he will get back to you promptly.

He Respects Your Privacy. Privacy Policy

Recent Posts