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Regaining Custody After Disavowing Children

Daniel Noffsinger - Monday, May 29, 2017

Once parental responsibilities are established, a change generally only occurs if there is a material change in circumstance with the children or the custodial parent or with the parents’ consent, and the proposed change is in the best interest of the children. Sometimes, a parent may disavow his or her children, disappear from their lives for a period of time, and then try to reestablish contact to become a parent once more at a later date. Many courts do not like this behavior because of the emotional impact and lasting effect the abandonment has on the children.

A New York Case Study

The case in point hails from New York. A wife and mother told her husband that she was leaving the family via text message before one of the children’s events – a production of the Nutcracker. The wife/mother wrote to the husband/father, “I am never planning to come back. This isn’t short term vacation from them. I want no communication. They will depend solely on you.” Two years later, the wife/mother asked to return to the family because she was in an “Ambien induced psychosis.” The judge rejected her request and instead awarded full legal and physical custody to the husband/father. She also ordered the wife/mother to pay child support, even though she was unemployed at the time of the custody hearing.

Effect on the Children

When a marriage with children ends, sometimes one of the spouses also wants to end the relationship with his or her children, rejecting both the former spouse and children. That impulsive act, however, has devastating effects on the children that may never be resolved. If the disavowing parent wishes to restore custody, he or she faces an uphill battle from the children and the court. Before custody can be established, the relationship needs to be restored. In the example cited above, the children were 13, 11, and 9 when their mother returned wanting to come back into their life. It is difficult for them to understand what their mother did and comprehend why she did it without removing the feeling of being abandoned.

Colorado Springs is a military community, so we see at times, military duties such as deployments, overseas assignments, and long-term trainings or TDY cause unintentional or periods of perceived ‘abandonment’. In these circumstances, while it is often no fault of the servicemember’s, the courts still have a duty to protect the best interests of the children and may present steep hurdles to the servicemember to re-connect with the children.

The moral of this story is that it is very difficult to receive custody of any kind, physical or residential, and visitation or parenting time, when the loss of contact with the children was due to a parent’s disavowal of his or her children, particularly because two full years passed before the mother in the New York example returned and attempted to reestablish contact with the children. The courts will not be very forgiving of the parent’s behavior and focus exclusively on the best interests and well-being of the children. Most often, the court will create a blueprint for the parent to restore the relationship, but that path could be incredibly long, slow, and costly.

Contact a Colorado Springs Child Custody Dispute Attorney

For parents or family members that need help with an existing child custody or modification of parental responsibilities order, they should seek legal assistance from an experienced family law. A Colorado Springsfamily law attorney at Noffsinger Law can help you understand your legal rights during custody dispute proceedings and protect your parental rights. Noffsinger Law provides legal services in a variety of family law matters, including paternity disputes, parental rights, adoptions and divorces.

Contact a Colorado Springs child custody dispute attorney today for a free initial consultation. Call us at 719.368.3688 or visit our office at 545 East Pikes Peak Avenue, Suite 205 in Colorado Springs.