What Can Be Used Against You in a Custody Battle

In the emotionally charged arena of child custody battles, every action or inaction can play a pivotal role in the court’s decision. Understanding what can adversely affect one’s claim is crucial for a favorable outcome. As parents strive to ensure their child’s well-being, the court delves deep into their past and present conduct.

From wondering, “Can you lose custody for bad-mouthing the other parent?” to considering how a mother can lose custody, this guide highlights what can be used against you in a custody battle.

What Can Be Used Against You in a Custody Battle?

  • Not Cooperating With Your Former Spouse
  • Missing Child Support Payments
  • Disrespecting the Other Parent
  • Lying to the Court
  • Not Taking Into Account Your Child’s Wellbeing
  • Going Against Your Child’s Wishes
  • Showing Up to Court Unprepared
  • Behaving Badly
  • Disrespecting Court Orders
  • Bringing New Partners Into Your Child’s Life

Not Cooperating With Your Former Spouse

Cooperation is the foundation of successful co-parenting. When a parent is unable or reluctant to cooperate with their former spouse, it raises concerns about the child’s best interests. An uncooperative attitude can make joint custody impractical and paint the parent negatively.

This attitude can drastically affect the court’s perception of the parent’s commitment to the child’s welfare, and the question of how a mother can lose a custody battle becomes clear when there’s a refusal to collaborate on shared parenting duties.

Missing Child Support Payments

Child support ensures the child’s needs are met financially. Failing to make these payments demonstrates a lack of responsibility and commitment. Regularly missing or delaying child support can be used against you in a custody battle. It signifies potential financial instability and a disregard for the child’s well-being.

The court sees these lapses as evidence of a parent’s unsuitability to provide a stable environment, emphasizing the need for consistency in such commitments.

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Disrespecting the Other Parent

Many wonder, “Can you lose custody for bad-mouthing the other parent?” The answer is yes. Derogatory remarks, slander, or verbal abuse towards the other parent can adversely affect custody proceedings.

The court prioritizes the child’s emotional and mental well-being. Disrespecting the other parent strains co-parenting relationships and can harm the child emotionally. Such actions might be perceived as attempts to alienate the child from the other parent, which courts generally frown upon.

Lying to the Court

Honesty holds paramount importance in legal proceedings. Lying or presenting misleading information can severely tarnish one’s credibility in the eyes of the court. Whether it’s about financial assets, personal conduct, or past incidents, dishonesty can backfire, leading to unfavorable custody rulings.

When parents contemplate what can be used against you in a custody battle, falsehoods rank high. The court’s primary concern is the child’s safety and well-being, and a parent willing to lie might be seen as potentially untrustworthy in other areas concerning the child’s care.

Not Taking Into Account Your Child’s Wellbeing

A custody battle isn’t just about rights but primarily responsibilities. A parent’s primary duty is to prioritize the child’s well-being. Neglecting this, whether through ignorance or oversight, can be a determining factor in custody outcomes.

Courts assess situations where a parent might overlook medical appointments, school functions, or the child’s emotional needs. Failing to acknowledge and act on signs of stress or distress in the child can suggest an inability to provide the nurturing environment the child requires, further answering the query of how a mother can lose a custody battle.

Going Against Your Child’s Wishes

As children grow older, their opinions carry more weight in custody battles. It’s essential to consider their desires and concerns. Ignoring or actively going against a child’s wishes without a valid reason can paint a picture of a parent more focused on personal interests than the child’s.

Especially in cases involving older children, courts often consider their preferences. When a parent disregards these preferences, it may be interpreted as a lack of understanding or empathy, potentially influencing custody decisions.

Showing Up to Court Unprepared

Being unprepared for court proceedings undermines your credibility and showcases a potential lack of commitment to the child’s best interests. An unorganized presentation, lacking documentation, or unawareness of prior arrangements and allegations, can all be detrimental.

Questions like “What can be used against you in a custody battle?” become painfully evident when ill-prepared, giving the opposing party advantage and jeopardizing one’s chances for a favorable ruling.


Custody battles are stressful, but allowing emotions to dictate behavior can be harmful. Public outbursts, aggressive confrontations, engaging in harmful habits, drug use, or excessive drinking can all work against a parent in court. Such behavior can prove that the parent’s environment might not be the safest or most stable for the child. Actions often speak louder than words; wrong behavior is a stark reminder.

Disrespecting Court Orders

Respecting court orders is non-negotiable. Defying or casually disregarding them demonstrates a blatant lack of respect for the legal process and the child’s welfare. Whether violating visitation rights, not adhering to agreed-upon stipulations, or any other form of non-compliance, such actions can significantly hinder one’s position in a custody battle. Courts interpret these actions as indicators of how a parent might act if granted custody, making adherence to all court orders paramount.

Bringing New Partners Into Your Child’s Life

Introducing new romantic partners into a child’s life can be delicate, especially amidst a custody battle. While seeking happiness and companionship is entirely valid, the timing and manner in which a new partner is introduced can impact the court’s perception. Rapid or frequent changes in romantic partners can create instability in the child’s life.

Additionally, if the new relationship causes emotional distress or confusion for the child, it can be used against a parent in court. The underlying concern is always the child’s well-being; any perceived disruption can influence custody decisions. In some cases, it becomes impossible to reverse sole custody.

Best Interest Of The Child

When a judge makes a decision governing child custody, there are certain behaviors they are looking for and factors they are considering. Understanding these factors can guide parents’ behaviors and decisions during the custody process to align with what is viewed legally as favorable for the child’s welfare. 

You should review the judge’s or court’s criteria to determine how to behave during your custody battle. The court is ultimately responsible for evaluating the situation and determining placement, parenting time, and full custody. All decisions made are in the child’s best interest, not the parent’s.

Considerations made in the best interest of a child during a custody hearing can include:

  • The amount of time the child has been under the care and control of any person other than a parent
  • The parent(s) desire to make a residence agreement or to submit a proper residence agreement to the court
  • The interactions and relationships between the child and their parents, siblings, and others significantly in their life
  • The child’s adjustment to their school, home, and community
  • The willingness of each parent to respect and appreciate the child’s natural bond with the other parent
  • The support of one parent for another
  • Evidence of spousal or child abuse
  • Evidence that the child is being placed in the presence of a registered sex offender
  • If either parent is a registered sex offender

The court’s evaluation process encompasses all of your behavior, whether you are fighting for a primary residence or looking for weekend or weekday visits with your children. Child custody is not a situation of “winning” or “losing”; if the judge determines you are unfit for visitation, they could rule out any possibility for visits or custody whatsoever.

Avoid any pitfalls by acting as if the judge were standing beside you each time you interact with your children or former spouse. We live in an age when things can be readily recorded, and there’s no reason to reduce your custody chances because of an angry comment or flippant word. 

Remember, children are mimics. Regardless of your relationship with your child, anything you say will inevitably reach the other parent. Stay aware of the things you say around your children and remain on your best behavior at all times. This is the time to build rapport with your children, to foster a good relationship, for the best interest of the child.

Legal Response to Bad-Mouthing

Parenting plans are the first line of defense against parental bad behaviors, but sometimes they are not enough and further legal action must be taken. If an ex-spouse will not discontinue untoward behavior, especially around the children, the court may order mandatory therapy and a psychological evaluation. There are laws against bad-mouthing the other parent and the courts will uphold them.

Judges may opt to modify an existing child custody order, limiting the offending parent’s parenting time or visitations. In some instances, the court might appoint a “guardian ad litem” or another qualified third party to speak with the children and address what the child has to say about their situation. If a parent’s bad-mouthing continues despite court orders, more drastic measures may be taken. The family court can find the offending parent in contempt, order jail time, or dispense other consequences if the behavior is not stopped after repeated warnings.

Recording or tracking incidents of bad-mouthing as they happen can be helpful for your family law attorney. When building your custody case, you need as much concrete evidence as possible. Even if there is an existing child custody order in place, it might be necessary to modify the order to protect the child’s well-being. Your family law attorney can use your ex-spouse’s negative behavior to build a new child custody case and protect your child’s psychological and emotional health. 

Final Thoughts

Navigating a custody battle is complex and emotionally charged. The overarching concern should always be the well-being and best interests of the child. From understanding how a mother can lose custody to ensuring one doesn’t fall into common pitfalls like bad-mouthing the other parent, preparation and a clear focus are vital.

Parents must be conscious of their actions inside and outside the courtroom. This awareness and a genuine commitment to the child’s happiness and stability will guide parents toward the best outcome for all involved, ensuring the child’s future remains bright and full of promise. Contact us if you need a reliable and experienced lawyer.

Picture of JARROD HAYS


Jarrod Hays is the founder of Skyview Law. He is licensed to practice law in Washington State and the Western District of Washington State Federal Court.

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