Can Child Custody Be Revoked in California?


Once you’ve made your way through the challenging legal maze of obtaining child custody orders from the court either as the result of a divorce or breakup, you may think that’s the end of the matter. Other than potential child custody modifications, such is generally the case. There are, however, extreme instances when California courts revoke child custody entirely. If you have concerns about your ex’s ability to parent your shared children, don’t wait to reach out for the skilled legal guidance of an experienced California child custody attorney.

Terminating Parental Rights

The termination of parental rights in California is a drastic step that permanently severs the legal parent-child relationship, which includes the termination of all the following:

  • custody
  • visitation
  • inheritance

In addition to the cessation of parental rights, revoking child custody also abdicates the parent of parental responsibilities, including paying child support. Parental rights can be voluntarily terminated or revoked by the court – often in order for a stepparent adoption to occur. It’s important to note that revoking child custody rights is not a matter of filing a form but, instead, requires the drafting of a legal pleading – for which you are well advised to have professional legal counsel in your corner.

Child Abandonment

One of the primary reasons for a parent’s right to child custody being revoked is abandonment, which generally involves the following elements:

  • leaving the child solely in the care and custody of the other parent – or someone else
  • providing no financial support for the child
  • failing to communicate with the child

When a parent engages in all the following for a period of at least six months – and does so with intention – the court can revoke child custody. Leaving one’s child in the sole care and custody of the other parent for a full year – with little or no communication in the interim – can also lead to the revocation of child custody.

Neglect or Cruelty

Child custody can also be revoked on the grounds of neglect or cruelty. Neglect can come in any of the following forms:

  • The child is not kept clean or appropriately groomed.
  • The child is not fed adequately in terms of amount or nutrition.
  • The child is left unsupervised.
  • The child does not receive adequate medical care.

While any parent can skip a bath time or two or call junk food a meal on the odd occasion, consistently failing to care for one’s children in all the primary ways listed above amounts to neglect.

Substance Abuse and Dependency

California courts can also revoke child custody based on a parent’s substance abuse and dependency – or what it calls parents suffering from disability due to alcohol, or controlled substances, or moral depravity. A parent whose substance abuse interferes with their ability to care for their children appropriately or whose substance abuse threatens the children in some way can lose custody. Parents who can complete court-ordered substance abuse programs and remain sober for the length of time required by the court, however, may be afforded the opportunity to have child custody reinstated.

Mental Health Concerns

A parent’s mental illness – in and of itself – does not preclude them from retaining child custody. If, however, the mental health condition causes the parent to neglect or jeopardize the children in a significant way, it can lead to child custody being revoked – in much the same way that substance abuse can.

Failure to Live up to Parental Responsibilities

Parents have important and nearly inviolate rights, but they also shoulder immense responsibilities. California courts honor parental rights, but they always base child custody determinations on the best interests of the children involved. As such, failures in terms or basic parental responsibilities can play a primary role in the termination of child custody rights.

Sabotaging Co-Parenting

The courts expect both parents to support each other’s parenting, which is undeniably in the best interests of their children. When one parent actively attempts to chip away at or destroy a child’s relationship with the other parent, the court will take this sabotage into careful consideration. The court takes the position that children are best served by having a close relationship with both parents, and when one parent does whatever they can to undermine this primary relationship, it can affect child custody.

Being Uninvolved

Even when a parent’s heart is in the right place, they can’t adequately parent if they’re almost never around – and almost never communicate with – their children. A parent who prioritizes everything else in their life before spending time with their children is a parent who does not demonstrate they are capable of adequate parenting.

Violating a Child Custody Order

California courts hand down child custody orders that they deem to be in the best interests of the children, and when a parent totally ignores these orders, the court can take action. When a parent consistently fails to show up or be there when required to do so or fails to uphold other court-ordered parental responsibilities, it can play a role in the revocation of child custody.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence harms everyone in the family – even when the children are not directly involved. As such, a parent who is convicted of domestic violence against anyone in the home can lose child custody. It’s important to note that when it comes to something as serious as domestic violence, California courts are proactive and will often take the steps necessary to protect those at risk prior to making final decisions in relation to child custody.

Don’t Wait to Consult with an Experienced California Child Custody Attorney

If you are a parent who is no longer with your children’s other parent, child custody is naturally of paramount concern, and if you have reason to believe your ex is not up to the responsibility of parenting, the matter becomes that much more critical. The revocation of child custody is a serious legal step, but a seasoned California child custody attorney can help you better understand your rights, explore your best legal options, and take the legal steps necessary to do what’s best for your children.