For Non-Custodial Moms

for non-custodial momsWhy do moms lose  custody of their children? Furthermore, how does a mom cope when she loses custody of her children? Well, there are many reasons it can happen. Addiction, neglect or abuse would be list toppers. In those cases, it makes sense for the welfare of the children. I’ve read blogs written by mothers who have given up their children due to addiction. They maintain a relationship with them but they are not the custodial parent.

I don’t really want to go into addiction and mothering on this post though.

There are other ways a mother can lose custody. One of them is because she is ‘poor’ as in she has no resources for the legal system.

Economic hardship.

I wrote about the helpless cycle a woman can get into when it comes to the legal system in the article Divorce Law-Protect or Infect?  If a woman was economically dependent on her husband while married, if she was a full time mother and staying home to raise the children…these situations lend themselves to economic hardship upon separation and divorce. On top of that, she isn’t likely to have much money for legal fees.

I realize that’s what alimony and spousal support are designed for. They’re designed to bridge the gap until the economically dependent spouse can get back on their feet financially. Whether that’s to re-educate, re-certify, or simply find an entry level job, there is no doubt that alimony and spousal support can bridge the income gap experienced by the newly separated spouse.

I’ll tell you what it is NOT designed for. Alimony and spousal support are not designed to pay for legal fees. No, sir. Legal fees are the avalanche that hang over your head with every new legal bill, just waiting to dispatch and drown you. You won’t be able to breathe under the debt. Meanwhile, if your ex is earning a substantial income and is inclined to fight for custody, you are at a grave disadvantage.

They can appeal. They can Appeal again, until they ‘win’ the children in an epic battle from hell. In fact, Gossip Girl actress, Kelly Rutherford’s story is the perfect example of an epic child custody battle. She lost and we’ve seen her pain publicly. She’s been in the news with each new appeal. She has(d) money, too but again, will there be any left when it’s all said and done? Apparently she is currently faced with bankruptcy.

Back to us regular moms, though. It can happen to anyone. A woman can easily fall victim to the legal system. When it’s over she has lost control. Most importantly, she has lost custody of her children. Of course, this doesn’t mean she has lost them altogether but it is devastating. She has lost her most important role: Motherhood.

How does she deal with such a loss?

Someone contacted me not long ago asking if I knew of any support groups (on-line) for non-custodial mothers. I was at a loss. I didn’t know of a single group. I could think of many general divorce support groups for women but not specifically non-custodial moms. It made me realize they are (hopefully) a minority in the divorce world but certainly in need of some specialized support. It’s like the upside down, backwards result of divorce.

  1. Ignore the judgers, they know nothing of your struggle.

Being a non-custodial mom goes against societal norms and with that comes judgment. First thought may be what did she do to lose her kids? Meanwhile, she did nothing. She ran out of money. Forget the judgers. Don’t feel the need to explain your situation because someone asks. It’s none of their business. Choose who you want to share your story with carefully.

  1. Be the best mom you can possibly be.

Take part in everything you can possibly be involved in with your children. School activities, sports, recitals, doctor/dental appointments—all that stuff. Take the exciting events with the mundane. Show up. Don’t give up.The continuity of this will make a big difference in the long run.

  1. Take back control.

How? Start with the little things (see above). One of the biggest things we lose as moms during divorce  is ‘control’. That may be control of money, decisions regarding the children, time with the children and lastly, what the children do when they’re away from you. It’s all out of our control.

Instead of focusing on this loss, take control of the things you can. For example, control things in your own life first. Your surroundings, your work, your hobbies…this will give you more power. The more powerful you feel, the more confident you will be and this will lead to positive decision making.

  1. Become a legal advocate for yourself.

You would be surprised how much you can do yourself, legally speaking.  For example, I have written an article titled Deadbeat 911, on how to get your child support as a self represented litigant. I’ve attached legal forms that are filled out as an example.

You may not qualify for legal aid but there are legal experts at courthouses that help self represented persons on various legal matters, often in family law. They are called ‘duty counsels’ here in Canada but I’m sure there are similar lawyers in U.S. and U.K.

Another way to do this is to find a lawyer who is willing to review your work before you file it and basically work with you on a limited scope. This will also save you thousands of dollars.

I think everyone should have the ability to file an application in court. Why? Because having the knowledge and confidence to deal with certain legal issues on your own is a powerful tool when dealing with an ex who has unlimited monetary resources. It’s the ideal time to attain necessary knowledge and experience in order to avoid being completely victimized.

You don’t have to be powerless to the legal system.

  1. Be the best version of you.

Although it may sound counter-intuitive, having less time with your kids is an opportunity. It means you have more time for yourself. That’s something that we’re not accustomed to. It can take some getting used to if you were a full-time SAHM (stay at home mom).

There is hope.

It will be painful and lonely at first but if you take a positive view, it will be the beginning a beautiful friendship—with yourself. This will allow you to be an even better mom. You 3.0. So, now is the time to learn something new, be open to meeting new people, or re-discover your passions.

for non-custodial moms


Losing custody of her children is the most painful experience a mother can have. Not only is it like losing a limb (or 2 or 3) but it goes against societal norms of motherhood, often making the non-custodial mom feel like an outcast.

Furthermore, in situations where a mom has been railroaded by a litigious ex with lots of money, it’s even more frustrating. In spite of it all though, we have to focus on what we can control. We’re still mothers whether our kids are at dad’s or with us. We can also take some legal control to a certain extent, easing our financial burden as well as giving us some power and control over our situation.

Focus on the time you do have with your kids.

Always be there for them.

You will always be their mother no matter how close or how far.

Above all else, be good to yourself because you are worthy.

Do you know or are you a non-custodial mom? Please add your thoughts…

Like what you’re reading? You’ll love the BOOK.

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39 Replies to “For Non-Custodial Moms”

  1. I feel lucky not to have faced this – because if my ex had the money, this would have been a real possibility. I can’t imagine a situation where I was only able to see my child a few days a month. Even fifty percent was hard for me to swallow. I’m glad there are resources and help out there – and that you’re putting yourself out there to help.

    1. Me, too Liv. It’s such a heartbreaking experience for anyone. 50% was a tough adjustment for sure. Well, I hope I’m helping a tiny bit. It’s such an overwhelming problem for any mother going through it. Thanks for sharing, Liv :0

  2. This is such a tricky situation…
    We know of a dad who needs to have his child under his care and can’t because the courts favour the mom — who is a hot mess.
    It’s the children who should ALWAYS come first.

    1. Hi Kim, Absolutely! The children needs are the first concern. It should be 50/50 parenting in most cases. I hope it works out for your friend. 🙁

  3. My heart hurts for the moms out there that this has happened to. From one of my forums, though, I know of one mom who lost custody of her kids, went back to school, and kept trying. Kept showing up. Had to face the haters and the judgers, but she did NOT give up. ANd now? She filed and has joint custody. In fact, I think there’s movement to give her sole because her ex was and still is a manipulative abuser, and the kids best interests were at jeopardy. Luckily she had a great guardian ad litem and therapist for the kids…it was a marathon, and she struggled for YEARS. But in the end, she got the outcome that was needed for the kids.
    My heart still is recoviering from our “custody battle”–I still worry for the kids. On paper it says I have full custody, joint legal, but what does that really mean? So I do a lot of #3–can’t control what he does, have to do what I can at my house to support my girls–to grow into their voices, to differentiate between their feelings and his feelings, to know its okay to have their independent thoughts and feelings. <3. I hope it's enough…

    1. Hi Jane, That’s an amazing story of perseverance. Very inspiring. I think it’s important to be there for whatever happens. Even when it feels as though you’re being shut out. My #1 advice is ‘don’t give up’.

      That must have been so tough for you, jane! especially with the abusive nature of your ex. I suppose that’s why you were awarded full custody. Joint legal? I believe that refers to the fact that dad has a say in big things like education, religion, moving out of State. Those things have to be jointly decided. Your blog should be read by anyone struggling with joint parenting. You do hold up a high standard, Jane. You are doing everything right and YES, it’s ENOUGH. Thanks for sharing your experience here!

  4. Devastating is an understatement. I have lived this for about 8 years now. When dealing with a parent with a personality disorder, it is a whole new ball game. A sociopath will not stop at anything, and has the evil nature to keep going and torturing the other parent until the target parent is destroyed. One Mom’s Battle has many nc moms and there are great sites for educating yourself like Do It Yourself Family Law (started by a mom who lost her kids and went to school to become an attorney.) In almost all instances, the parent setting out to destroy the other is very abusive (but not always physically) which coupled with vexatious litigation can lead to ptsd and a multitude of other health problems. We need to scream from the rooftops of the injustices. We need to bring to light what the broken system does to moms and children.

    1. Yes. Agreed! I’m so sorry that you have gone through this, Bella! Add a personality disorder to the mix and you’re in for one hell of a ride. It’s for all the WRONG reasons, too. No parent should lose their children unless there is risk of harm through abuse, addiction or neglect (which I guess goes under abuse). Kids always come first but these sociopath types make it all about them.

      Please feel free to share the link for the Do It Yourself Family Law that this woman started!

      Tina of One Mom’s Battle is an amazing advocate. Thanks for mentioning her. She had an epic battle and WON. Her second book is out now as well. So, for anyone looking for inspiration to keep active in getting their children back, they should definitely read Tina’s books. “One Mom’s Battle” .

      Agree. The system is broken. The system is not designed to award what is best for children. It is based on black and white rules of law not emotions. Thanks, bella for sharing here. Stay in touch.

    1. Hi Kim, Exactly. I think as mothers we are not biologically equipped to give up our children. I’m not saying that men are but there is a difference. Men are not programmed the way we are. I say that carefully because there are many men in pain from losing their children as well. Thanks, Kim for sharing your thoughts here on the subject!

  5. This is a great self-motivating piece for moms everywhere, Lisa. It is odd how society looks down so much more on women who lose custody of their child than men. It is certainly discouraging how the legal system does not give everyone a voice, especially if they aren’t able to present a fat wallet.

    I like the Take Back Control point a lot. Staying positive and doing things that give us a sense of purpose ultimately will give us a sense of direction – and that will probably reflect well in kids’ eyes and overall it would be a better environment for everyone 🙂

    1. Hi Mabel, yes those are two very big biases. I guess we expect women to have custody and if they don’t there is automatically something wrong with them. The legal system is not a friendly place for child custody disputes. It’s so true that if we can stay positive and take some control, our kids will see that. Thanks, Mabel for your thoughtful comment!

  6. I always love what I read here, Lisa… And how you cover so many angles I never would have even thought about when it comes to divorce. I honestly can’t even begin to imagine the pain of having to undergo a long and hard custody battle in the court system but I’ve seen it play out with friends over and over again and the amount of $$ spent on legal fees is just sickening. Because every parent (mom AND dad) would much rather that money go to the children in the end.

    Thank you so much for providing these unbelievable resources and all of this advice to those who need it most <3

    1. Thank you, Charlotte. I can’t think of anything more painful in a divorce than custody battles. Yes, the $$ lost is irreplaceable. The expense is a terrible burden for any parent. That’s exactly true that when we think of the money spent on a court battle, we can equate it with what is lost to the children. That’s a logic that some divorcing couples can’t grasp until it’s too late. Thanks for sharing, Charlotte. I always appreciate your point of view 🙂

  7. When times get tough I remember how blessed I am to have my kid living with me. It would break my heart if my ex would win it at some stage. It’s so terrible for mothers in this situation, but I have to agree your advices are top ones Lisa. Thank you for being there and helping each one fo us, dealing with divorce and all that is going on with this long and tiring process.

    1. Hi Marie, that would be devastating! I hope my tips are of some help to those moms going through it. Thanks for stopping by, Marie 🙂

  8. For the last 11 years since she was born I’ve raised my baby girl and now we are separated by 1900 miles! My 15 year old is sick and needed care in California and I was forced to leave my youngest in Texas with her dad. I couldn’t afford the court battle but other than that didn’t do anything to have her taken from my physical custody. He doesn’t keep me from talking to her at this point but this is all just happening. His wife makes remarks though about time will pass and she will get over it and we will barely talk. Wth is that supposed to mean!! I’m her mom. . I cry every day all day and I don’t know how to make it without my baby girl. She wants to be with me and I want her here. It’s not right that money can control the lives of the innocent! I miss her so much.

    1. It sounds like you had to make a tough choice, Cindy. Can you travel to TX to visit your daughter on a regular basis? Try to maintain contact with her regularly. Is your move short term or do you need to stay in CA for long term? Maybe you can fly your daughter out to CA for holidays or school breaks.

    2. God bless you. Your heart is pouring out in every word here. Know this….she is YOUR baby. The fluttering in your belly when she was forming, the hiccups and kicks you felt beneath your own heart. From the moment you knew she was with you, she became a part of you. THAT no court order, no distance, no person can take from you. You can file a Motion for Modification of Child Custody. The judge in chambers will ask your baby why she wants to live with you. It isn’t guaranteed, but it is heard. And if she seeks this change with an ability to express herself with maturity and understanding you may be reunited. Yes, her father can contest. Just give it a shot…You are stronger than you think! You’re incredible. And she will be with you at some point. This does end. And it will be ok.

  9. I thought I was alone in this non custodial mom world. If only I could have stayd positive when I lost custody instead of thinking my world was over. I have been my own advocate but not sure I can be in court

    1. hi Becky, it feels like your world is over because the one you’ve always known has changed. It feels unnatural to not have custody of your babies. Sounds like you’re staying strong.

  10. Originally, I agreed to a 50/50 custody arrangement with my ex husband, but he took me to court and it has been about 18 months since hehas gained domicile custody of our children, he still lived in our shared home and in a better school district so the judge (of course court was in the parish where he resided also) gave us shared custody with him being domicile. It didn’t seem to matter that up until the point of divorce, I had been the primary caregiver to the children. but I only get the kids every other weekend during the school year and a week to week schedule in the summer. I have never had any drug or alcohol problems or any abuse or neglect involved in our situation. I know deep in my heart that my kids belong with me and my ex husband is so nasty to me. I’m lucky if they call me once a week when theyre with their father (or his girlfriend mostly) and everyone at the school treats me differently. Its killing me. If I call to speak to them it goes unanswered and I usualy get nasty text messages back. I try to be as involved as I can in their extracurricular activities, but I have a job and the custody arrangement is scheduled around his work schedule and not mine. I try to numb myself to how I feel, but my kids are young and I feel like I lose them over again every other Sunday. I worry all the time and I cant check to be sure they’ve gotten on the bus safely, or that they’ve had enough water after a long day outside, I just feel like I’m not a mom anymore and the time I get with my kids is just not enough. I’m so angry and sad and torn and I don’t know how to move on and be happy. I don’t think I can every be happy. I cant afford therapy, I cant take drugs to numb the pain, I am stuck and I don’t know what to do and I was just hoping that there is some other moms out there who can relate, who have been here before, who know that it gets better. I need someone to tell me it gets better. I miss them and it hurts so much. I lost a child to SIDS years ago and this feeling, this long term pain, its comparable to that pain. I feel like Ive lost everything. I need my kids and as horrible as my marriage was, as much as my ex husband disgusts me I would have stayed if it meant not losing them.

    1. Hi Danae, my apologies for replying so late to your comment. I thought I had responded but I don’t see it. Perhaps my mobile device failed me. First thing I think would help you is a support group specifically for non-custodial mothers in your community (in person). I prefer an in person group rather than a facebook group for many reasons. You need some support from other mothers going through this and someone who is locally close to you. Facebook isn’t as confidential as it appears to be and it’s better to share experiences in person with a group for that reason. Currently, your only choice is to make the best of the limited time you have with your children. In the near future you could possibly try for a variation in the custody order to attain more time with them. Does that mean living closer to them? I’m not sure but it sounds like the judge favored the father for jurisdictional reasons (he was close to their school). Maybe get some close friends and professionals (pediatrician or family doctor) to write a letter on your behalf, stating your good qualities as a mother. You say everyone at school is treating you differently…try to get to the bottom of that. Instead of withdrawing into isolation—start talking. Talk to school moms, the teachers, set up an appointment with the school principal to discuss your concerns with the change in custody. Don’t give up. I know you’re in pain but you need to focus on what you have and not on what you’ve lost. It will get better! Stay strong.

  11. I lost custody February of this year after fighting for 3 years. The money just ran out… I still owe my attorney thousands, and they wouldn’t bring me to trial without zeroing my balance and paying another $5k retainer. But ironically I don’t qualify for legal aid, I’ve tried them all. Heartbreaking and devastating are under statements… Especially when your ex was abusive and you continue to live in fear for your children daily.

    1. Hi Amanda, that is devastating! Instead of legal aid you could attend the assistance centers for people who require legal help with filings or court orders. It’s not exactly legal advice but it is valuable assistance to help you continue. If the father is abusive, I don’t understand how he has attained sole custody. That sounds dangerous and like a situation you need to keep fighting to correct. Yes, lawyers will basically do zero unless you have money. That’s how the system works, unfortunately. That said, there is much you can do as self represented by seeking assistance from legal help in the courthouse. Do an internet search of your local city courthouse and you will likely find there ‘duty counsel’ lawyers available to help.

      1. Hi! I have to share a long distance parenting with my ex having them the majority if time. I still to this day suffer not having them with me everyday and can’t believe that the system will take over my love for my children, without any negligent, abuse or any negative history. He abducted my kids because of me having a relationship and him being a possessive person. He took control using my children, not being yet divorced because he never wanted to give me the divorce. My life is impossible as me being the co parent.

        1. Hi neysha, well I hope you have reported the abduction to the authorities in both cities (countries?). You still see your children through co-parenting it sounds like so try to make the best of that. Sounds like you could use some legal advice from a professional. Try to talk to a lawyer about your situation and see what your rights/options are.

  12. I run a private group for moms like myself. You do NOT need a lawyer, and there probably isn’t one that can help you. I have won on my own. I was an elementary school teacher. Now I am a law student. Law school is cheaper that the appellate specialist I would need. And I have ALWAYS won representing myself. I teach other moms to do the same.

    1. I have one mom who came to me just yesterday and told me her trial is Tuesday. She has no idea how to write a subpoena, a brief, or what an affidavit is. There are several mothers like myself, but we have to be choosy in who we help, we are running our own cases on our own. I have several support groups I can provide you with privately. But my group is for people who want there kids back, not a pity party.

      1. Feel free to leave a link in a reply so women can click over to you or if it’s private, how do they access for possible help?

        I agree with you 100% on the pity party. There is no room for that when it comes to custody of our children. Taking action and standing up for ourselves and them is the only way.

    2. That is awesome, Julia. It is kind of tricky depending on the case, I imagine but there are some basics every woman can learn. Sounds like you’ve started an important movement. Full respect to you. Thanks for sharing here.

  13. I’ve been tearing myself to shreds for nearly a year because I lost custody of my kids. I lost them due to addiction, but I needed to lose what mattered to me the most in order to stop drinking. Now I’ve been sober 7 months. Court orders allow 2 supervised visits for 2 hours a week at a specific facility. That facility only does 1 monitored visit per week. I’m going to take this advice. Instead of feeling sorry for myself that I see my babies once a week, I’m going to be the awesome mom I know I am for them for those 2 hours every week. It won’t be this way forever.

    1. Good for you, Kari. Taking care of yourself makes you a better mom. You’ve taken the first steps by conquering your addiction. Thanks for sharing here. 🙂

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