What Happens When a Mom Gives Up Custody?

By River Braun, J.D.

What Happens When a Mom Gives Up Custody?

By River Braun, J.D.

Even though a mom gives up custody of her children, that does not mean that she cannot play an active role in her children's lives. When a mother gives up custody of her child, many people wonder why or how a mom could do that. However, a mother could have a specific reason for giving up custody. For example, a mother may recognize that she is unable to care for her child because she lacks sufficient financial stability or has a mental disorder that prevents her from providing adequate care for her child.

Sad boy hugging his father

Decision-Making Powers vs. Time-Sharing

Custody issues typically come up during the course of a divorce, but that isn't the case in all circumstances. Regardless, if a mother gives up full custody of her children, she loses her right to make decisions regarding her child. Most states recognize two types of custody. Physical custody relates to where the child lives and who has primary care of the child. Legal custody refers to which parent has the right to make decisions for the child, including decisions related to education, religion, childcare, healthcare, and daily activities.

When a mother relinquishes custody, she does not have any say in the decisions made for her child. All parenting decisions are the sole responsibility of the father or the person who has legal and physical custody of the child.

However, the mother may retain visitation rights with her child. A time-sharing schedule can ensure that the mother maintains a close bond and relationship with her child, even though she may not have any legal right to make decisions for her child. In cases in which the mother may not be able to care for the child, the court may order supervised visitation so that the child and mother may see each other, but someone is present to ensure the safety and well-being of the child.

Mothers Must Continue Paying Child Support

A parent's duty to financially support their child is not terminated if the parent does not have custody of the child. If a mother loses custody or she voluntarily relinquishes custody, she is still expected to contribute to the financial needs of her child. Most states have child support guidelines that calculate child support obligations based on several factors including income, visitation schedules, and the needs of the child.

A mother's child support obligations only terminate if she voluntarily relinquishes her parental rights or if the court terminates her parental rights. State laws prohibit parents from voluntarily relinquishing their parental rights to avoid paying child support.

Loss of Tax Benefits

When a mother gives up custody of her child, she loses important tax benefits. Depending on the mother's financial situation, the loss of tax benefits could result in a substantial change in the amount of taxes she owes each year. The mother cannot claim the child as a dependent on her tax return. She also loses the right to claim other tax deductions related to her child, including expenses related to healthcare and daycare. She also loses the child tax credit and earned income credits.

Before you give up custody of your child, you may want to explore other options related to custody. If you cannot physically care for your child, you might be able to give up physical custody while retaining joint legal custody with your child's other parent. You might also be able to share joint custody or obtain a flexible visitation schedule that allows you to spend as much time with your child as your situation allows.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.