Can a Mother Lose Custody of Her Child?

While many individuals still believe there is bias that exists that protects a mother’s ability to secure and maintain custody of her child, this is not true. Any parent that exhibits certain types of misconduct can lose custody of their child in New York. If the child is being put in harm’s way due to the mother’s behavior or lack thereof, she could lose custody of her child. Today, we go over the ways in which a mother may be deemed unfit and therefore give up her rights to custody.

What Constitutes an Unfit Parent in New York?

No parent is perfect and sometimes mistakes happen. The last time we checked, this was called parenthood. An unfit parent surpasses these little mistakes though. An unfit parent is a parent who through their conduct fails to provide proper care, guidance, and/or support. This kind of parent may also neglect the child, abuse substances in front of the child, or engage in physical, mental, or verbal abuse. In most cases where a parent is deemed unfit, Child Welfare and Child Protective Services will be involved in some way and open an investigation against the parent.

Top 4 Reasons That Could Cause a Mother to Lose Child Custody

The following behaviors could convince the court to limit or remove custody privileges entirely:

Physical abuse of the child

If this type of abuse is reported to law enforcement or child protective services who then act, custody could be revoked. Child services can remove a child from a physically abusive home and provide temporary custody to the child’s other parent or a close family member.

If the father of the child files a request for order with the court where the abuse is brought up, requesting sole legal and physical custody of the child, the mother may lose her rights to custody.

Physical abuse of the partner

A mother loses custody of the child because of physical abuse of the father in the following ways:

  • Law enforcement arrested the mother due to an incident of domestic violence
  • Father obtains a domestic violence restraining order petition in family court and then requests sole legal and sole physical custody of the child


Serious neglect is considered grounds for a mother to lose custody. While there is no perfect parent, and a family law judge acknowledges this, there is a difference between making a mistake and consistently neglecting a child.

A mother’s serious neglect that endangers the child’s healthy, safety, or wellbeing is unacceptable. Also, if the mother neglected her child in a manner that left the child without food, shelter, clothes, and/or education, she would lose custody.

Violation of a court order

Violating a court order is another form of misconduct. This could include refusing to allow the father to spend time with the child or consistently violating the parenting plan. A mother that violates a court order may be held in contempt of court and will also lose custody.

If you think your co-parent is unfit and would like to seek sole custody of your child, contact our office. Additionally, if you are looking to protect your rights to custody of your child get in touch with Jason M. Barbara & Associates, P.C. online or by calling (516) 406-8381.