Can a Mother Legally Keep Her Child Away from the Father?

By  //  April 22, 2021

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Some mothers might try to get revenge on their ex-partners by harming their relationship with their children, while others might limit contact between their children and the biological fathers for a good reason like child abuse or immoral behavior.

But can a mother keep her child away from the father without getting into legal troubles? The answer depends.

Can a Mother Take Away Her Child from the Father?

As a rule of thumb, a parent cannot bar the other parent from seeing their child unless there is a court order that supports that decision. Lawmakers had the best interests of the child at heart when they established such a rule, and one of the best interests is to have both parents in the child’s life.

One notable exception is unmarried couples. If an unmarried couple decides to separate, the child is usually left with the mother if the paternity has not been established. In other words, if the father failed to fill out the birth certificate as the biological father when the child was born, the mother has every right to keep away his child from him.

Paternity can be established later on so that the father regains his parental rights. Unmarried couples with established paternity are treated the same as married couples under the law when it comes to child custody matters.

But a father with no established paternity has no legal right to stay in contact with his child, as there is no presumption of paternity even if he and his ex-partner shared the same household for many years.

When a mother in a married couple decides to alienate the father, she risks losing full custody in court unless the decision was spurred by legitimate worries about the child’s safety and well-being. When it comes to married couples, whether mothers can legally separate their children from the fathers can only be determined by a family court.

However, if married mothers do decide to sever their children’s ties with fathers, they are rarely penalized even if what they do is blatantly illegal. In addition, if the father fails to bring the matter to court and obtain a court order, he is enabling their estranged spouse’s misbehavior.

When Can a Mother Legally Take Away the Child

The only time a married or divorced woman can prevent her children’s father from seeing them is when the children are in physical or physiological danger. For instance, a mother can severely contact her child and her abusive husband even if there is no court order if she thinks her child is in danger.

Later, she can ask a judge to issue an order to prevent the abusive dad from getting in touch with the child or limiting visitation. In some cases, the court might order supervised visitations. Yet, some mothers might try to abuse this exception and prevent fathers from seeing their children even if doing so is against the law.

Some mothers might argue that their ex-partners:

Lack parenting skills: This is no excuse to keep the child away from his or her father. This excuse is often brought up by the so-called helicopter parents who believe that their ex-partners’ parenting skills are lacking just because they are not as overprotective as they are.

Refuses to pay child support. The law does not allow a mother to put a lid on the father’s custody or visitation rights just because he doesn’t want to pay child support. The matter can be solved in a family court.

Don’t follow custody agreements to a tee. A mother cannot keep her child away from the father if the father is late at picking up or dropping off the little ones or fails to see them regularly as the judge ordered.


A mother cannot legally take away the child from their father with a few exceptions. The child’s best interests are generally served by being able to enjoy the presence of both parents in his or her life. Typically, a court will order, on an interim or permanent basis, visitation such as a 70 30 custody schedule. If the father is abusive or a danger to the child’s wellbeing and development, however, the mother can temporarily prevent contact until a court order is issued.

However, such complicated family matters need to be handled by a good attorney like this child custody lawyer in California unless parents want to risk losing full custody. Most judges decide such matters based on the child’s best interests, but unfortunately, some of them might get biased against fathers. If that happens, fathers need to lawyer up and don’t give up the fight for the sake of their children. The court system will eventually do them justice.

About the author:

While she had a solid education in law, Lynda King wanted more than a job as a lawyer. She knew that people needed information and a better understanding of everyday legal matters, so she began writing articles and guidelines to educate individuals and businesses. Now, Lynda is collaborating with Farzad & Ochoa Family Law Attorneys, being proud that her knowledge and writing talent are helping everyone every day.