Common Causes of Child Custody Disputes

As a parent, the subject of child custody can be difficult to navigate. No matter how amicable parents are at the end of the relationship, disputes can easily arise. Many issues like visitation schedules and decision-making powers can put you at odds.

Both parents should learn the common causes of child custody disputes. Doing so will help them recognize and avoid the signs of potential conflicts. It can also better prepare them for solutions that are in the best interests of their children.

Here are some examples of these disputes and why they occur.

Problems with the Parenting Plan

The parenting plan is a document that outlines the child custody agreement. It covers topics ranging from residential arrangements to visitation schedules. This document affects every aspect of child custody, and its implications are far-reaching.

The parenting plan is meant to promote the best interests of the child and minimize conflicts between parents. However, disputes could arise while drafting or enforcing the plan. Parents can disagree on various issues and may have different interpretations of the plan.

For instance, one parent may believe the other is not abiding by the agreement, leading to conflict. Often, there are fundamental misunderstandings about the plan, even when both parents are doing their best to follow it correctly.

The best way to avoid such problems is to work on the plan alongside a legal professional. Law Office of Pamela C. Bratcher can help couples create the plan together. Our goal is to help make sure everyone completely understands the details of the plan. We can help you word it properly so there is no misinterpretation, and you can easily enforce the plan when someone fails to follow it.

Financial Problems

Some parents might resort to using child support payments as leverage to gain custody. They treat this court-ordered obligation as a bargaining tool. Others may argue that the other parent is financially unfit to provide for the children and therefore should not have custody.

A good custody agreement considers the finances of both parents, including child support payments. Otherwise, conflicts can arise.

Sudden changes in finances can create problems as well. They may put either the paying or receiving parent in a bind. Remember, custody and support orders can be altered. Talk to a seasoned attorney if your income has experienced an abrupt, semi-permanent change.

Unreasonable Expectations

As parents, we all want the best for our children, but our expectations must remain grounded in reality. When parents want unrealistic outcomes, it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on both the child and the other parent. This can ultimately cause harm to the family unit.

Here are some examples of unrealistic expectations we often see:

  • Believing false allegations
  • Expecting 100% full custody
  • Overlooking joint custody options
  • Ignoring the child’s desires or their relationship with each parent
  • Misunderstanding the justice system, such as assuming that one parent has automatic rights

Interference from Outsiders

It's understandable when grandparents, aunts, uncles, or even close friends want to get involved. They also want what’s best for the child, but they also bring their own ideas about what that means. This can lead to difficult custody disputes.

For example, someone might feel entitled to custody if they’ve given the child significant financial or emotional support. Perhaps an outsider has concerns about a parent's ability to provide a stable home environment. People with good intentions may get involved and muck up the process.

Sometimes, however, people with bad intentions simply want to cause problems or interfere with the parent's life.

Whatever the reason, understand that any interference from extended family or friends should not be taken lightly. The parenting plan should put the kids first and the parents second. Ultimately, it isn’t about anyone else.


If either parent moves, there can be child custody disputes. This is true whether it is the parent with primary custody or the one with secondary custody.

In most cases, parents who must relocate to a different state, city, or even country, are doing so for work or personal reasons. Such a move will interfere with the custody agreement. It was created under very different circumstances, where everyone was closer.

Without proper planning and good communication, relocation can lead to court battles, legal fees, and emotional distress for all parties involved.

Co-parenting and relocation requires an in-depth analysis of factors such as the child's age, special needs, and the relationship between the child and the non-relocating parent. A legal professional can help you craft a new parenting plan that benefits all stakeholders.

Domestic Violence Issues

Domestic violence can have a profound impact on child custody disputes. In such cases, the first priority is to protect the children and get them to a safe environment where they can thrive.

The court system plays a vital role in determining child custody agreements, and you must give judges all the information they need to make the right decision.

If you suspect that the other parent is dangerous or abusive, you must prove this claim in court. Talk with an experienced lawyer who understands the nuances of family law and domestic violence claims. They can help guide you through the legal process and advocate for your child’s best interests.

Our firm is here to help you craft a reasonable custody agreement, and we can step in if disputes arise. For a free consultation, reach out to us online or call us now at (270) 977-8910.