What Non-Custodial Moms Need to Know during Divorce

Today, more mothers are finding themselves in the non-custodial role after divorce, even if they were the primary caregivers during the marriage. 

Why moms don’t always get full custody

When custody cases are decided by the court, decisions are based on what the court perceives to be the best interest of the child. 

Depending on the age and maturity of the child, a judge may consider the child’s preference, the parent-child relationship, the role each parent has played in the care of the child, and whether each parent supports the child’s relationship with the other parent. 

While joint custody is the most common approach to shared parenting, it stands to reason that a mother may lose or be denied joint physical custody or even joint legal custody if there is evidence of serious misconduct. This may include any of the following:

  • Domestic violence
  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Neglect
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Serious mental health issues
  • Parental alienation
  • Failure to commit to parental duties
  • Violation of a court order

While mothers do lose or are denied custody of their children by the court for these reasons, in the vast majority of cases, non-custodial mothers have made the heartbreaking decision to give up their own custodial rights. 

A mother may decide to give up her primary custodial rights for various reasons. 

  • She may give up custody hoping to get it back at some point in the future when her situation changes.
  • In an uphill legal custody battle, she may have run out of money for the legal fees to keep it going. 
  • If she’s not employed, she may feel the choice is best for her child’s financial welfare.
  • She may feel emotionally overwhelmed and choose to give the father custody to reduce the friction in everyone’s life. 

Dealing with a negative stigma 

When fathers give up their parental rights, few people give it much thought. But when a mother gives up custody, it may be assumed she is a “bad” mother. From those around her, she often faces harsh judgment. 

Many a non-custodial mom braces for a reaction when she tells someone that her kids don’t live with her. She already knows the unspoken assumption is that she must have done something wrong to warrant it. In many cases, instead of trying to explain the situation, she just avoids telling anyone.

Non-custodial moms can also face this stigma in institutional settings. It can lead to many uncomfortable interactions with schools and in medical offices, with some non-custodial moms even being denied access to their child’s school or medical records. 

Every woman who has given up primary custody of a child has her own story of what led to that decision. It is not usually made lightly. For most of these mothers, the act is not a selfish one but a selfless one. 

Read: 9 Terms to Know When Making Child Custody Decisions

Making the most of your time together

If you are the non-custodial parent in your parenting arrangement, you have limited time with your kids. You want to make the most of every moment, even when you can’t be together physically. 

You can enhance your time with your kids by doing the following:

  • Being consistent and on time for your parenting time 
  • Keeping your activities kid-focused
  • Never speaking badly of your ex to your children
  • Keeping communication open with your co-parent so you can stay as consistent as possible with rules and expectations
  • Keeping up-to-date with school goings-on through the school website and message system
  • Speaking with your child’s teacher to understand what is being studied so you can reinforce homework and projects at home 
  • Taking advantage of any volunteer opportunities with your child’s school or extracurricular activities 
  • Syncing your co-parenting schedule with your ex’s so you know what is going on when they’re not with you
  • Attending school productions, dances, sports-related activities, and other extracurricular activities whenever you can 
  • Making your house feel like home with separate clothes, toothbrushes, toys, and other personal belongings so your child doesn’t feel like they are just “visiting”
  • Establishing a routine; kids crave routine and consistency
  • Having a special meal, playing a game, or watching a particular TV show each time they come to your home
  • Finding ways to consistently video message your kids when you’re away from them 

Child custody agreements can be one of the most contentious aspects of a divorce. By the time it gets to the court system, both parties are often in adversarial positions with little common ground. 

At Hello Divorce, we are here to show that a contentious divorce is not the only way. It rarely sets couples up for cooperative co-parenting, and it isn’t good for the kids. When parents can work out custody arrangements with a trained mediator, divorce can be easier and far less costly. Our divorce mediation services by phone or Zoom are designed for couples who want to work through their divorce as simply, amicably, and cost-effectively as possible. 

If you have questions about whether divorce mediation could work for you, schedule a free 15-minute consultation with us. 

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Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.