The time to fix your parenting issues is before the other parent discovers them

Posted Tuesday, July 21st, 2020 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Child Custody, Not South Carolina Specific, Of Interest to Family Court Litigants, Of Interest to Family Law Attorneys, Of Interest to General Public

Ernest Hemingway said he went bankrupt “gradually, then suddenly.” That’s the way a lot of custodial parents lose custody.

Some of the more frustrating custody consults are with parents who have lost custody, or are about to lose custody, in that same manner. Like Hemingway’s bankruptcy, they allowed problems to accumulate gradually until suddenly these problems become urgent. Typically these problems involve neglectful parenting, mental health issues, substance abuse, or domestic violence. So long as the children suffer no acute problems from the custodial parent’s deficiencies, that parent’s problems may not result in custody litigation. However, once there is an obvious sign of that parent’s issue, and once that issue has seriously and negatively impacted the children, a change of custody–if sought–is almost inevitable. An arrest, an inpatient referral for mental health or substance treatment, or a DSS investigation, are often the instigating catalyst for a custody modification case.

Further, once custody is changed on this basis, unless the other parent is generous or has his or her own deficiencies, it is hard to get custody returned. The parent who lost custody will focus on the acute issue and argue that it was simply a “one time” occurrence. Given the human tendency to hide or minimize one’s problems, the other parent and the family court judge will likely see this acute issue as the mere culmination of long-standing problems the custodial parent failed to address. It will be hard to convince them otherwise. An attorney who is hired only after a parent’s issues have resulted in a crisis is likely to be fighting a largely defensive action on facts that will be hard to defend.

A custodial parent who is having personal problems that negatively impact his or her parenting ability is advised to fix those problems before they become acute–and public.

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