Parental Misconduct Can Be Basis for Change of Child Custody

August 19, 2021 | J. Benjamin Stevens | Share:

Does this sound familiar?  Parents divorce and are granted joint custody of their child, with the mother having primary physical custody and the father having liberal visitation.  This arrangement works fairly well for a year or so, but then problems develop. The “problems” that arise include:

  • Mother prevents father’s new wife from picking up children from daycare by not adding her name on the approved list.
  • Mother plans to change child’s last name, by including her maiden name and hyphenating it with the father’s (child’s) last name.
  • Mother refuses to allow child to continue seeing a therapist she had been seeing for six months.
  • Mother interrupts the child’s holiday visitation with the father; and
  • Mother calls father’s new wife a “dirty wh—” in front of the child.

Unfortunately, I have seen these types of parental misconduct occur far too often.  In fact, I have handled child custody cases involving every one of these allegations. These situations occur when one parent gets so caught up in his/her own negative feelings toward the other parent that they simply forget about the child’s interest or welfare.  How can any reasonable person defend calling their child’s stepparent a dirty whore?

A court in Missouri, when presented with the facts set forth above, found that the mother’s actions “constituted an ‘adverse circumstance’ that was “adverse to [the child’s] best interest’” and that “the best interest of the child warranted a transfer in custody from [the mother] to [the father], with [the mother] having specified visitation.”

Kudos to that court for recognizing the seriousness of these types of problems and for doing something about it.  Too often, Courts will simply give parents a “slap on the wrist” in such situations, believing that it will discourage such future conduct.  However, the opposite is often true, and parents become emboldened when they see that they can get away (for the most part) with such conduct.


Ben Stevens is a Fellow in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and he is a Board-Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He has represented parents in Family Court cases all across South Carolina for over twenty-five years. If you or someone you know is facing a child custody or visitation case, contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or to schedule a consultation.

Contact our office at (864) 598-9172 or to schedule an initial consultation.



Aggressive, creative, and compassionate are words Ben Stevens' colleagues freely use to describe him as a divorce and family law attorney. Mr. Stevens is a Fellow in the prestigious American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the International Academy of Family Lawyers, and is a Board Certified Family Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He is one of only two attorneys in South Carolina with those simultaneous distinctions. He has held numerous leadership positions in the AAML, and he currently serves as one of its National Vice Presidents. Mr. Stevens has a statewide practice and regularly appears all across South Carolina.  His practice is focused on complex divorce and child custody cases.

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