Is neglect reason enough to change custody?

Question:Cordell & Cordell attorney Andrea Miller

I am a very exhausted stepmother trying to do what is best for my husband’s children but when it comes to dealing with the kids’ mother nothing comes easy!

To make a very long story short I would like to know if it is considered neglect or a reason for a change in custody if an ex-wife does not properly care for the children’s hygiene – resulting in many cavities – and is constantly moving them around to different schools?


I am not licensed to practice law in Illinois.  I am only licensed in North Carolina and therefore my analysis of your question will focus on how North Carolina courts may handle the question.  Cordell & Cordell has offices in Illinois and I encourage to you to contact those offices.  They can better advise you on Illinois law.

In North Carolina child custody law a neglected juvenile is defined as “A juvenile who does not receive proper care, supervision, or discipline, or discipline from the juvenile’s parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker; who has not been abandoned; or who is not provided necessary medical care; or who is not provided necessary remedial care; who lives in an environment injurious to the juvenile’s welfare; or who has been placed for care or adoption in violation of law.”

The fact that the children have not been to the dentist in two years and the fact that they have changed schools multiple times would be some evidence as to the ex-wife’s neglect of the minor children.  In North Carolina, for your husband to change the child custody schedule, he would have to prove a “substantial change of circumstance which affects the best interest of the children.”  This change of circumstance must be from the time the Order was entered to the time he would file the Motion.  Therefore, if these things were going on when the Order was entered, they may not be relevant to a determination on whether a substantial change of circumstances has taken place.  The focus is the time period from the time the Order was entered to the time of the filing of the Motion.

Without looking at the Order and what was entered into, it is difficult to determine whether the fact that they have not been to the dentist or the school changes are going to be relevant on a determination of neglect.  If the child custody Order already highlighted these issues and determined them not to be evidence of neglect, then your husband would need other “substantial changes of circumstances.”  If they didn’t rule on these issues, then these could be evidence to support the allegation of neglect.

Thank you once again for your inquiry.  Please be aware that this does not constitute an attorney-client relationship.  I urge you to contact one of our offices in Illinois so that they can advise you on how your question would be answered using Illinois law.


Andrea Miller is a Staff Attorney in the Charlotte, N.C., office of Cordell & Cordell where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Miller is licensed in the state of North Carolina. Ms. Miller received her undergraduate degree in History and her Juris Doctor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  While in law school, she on the Client Counseling Team for Moot Court and became a board member. Ms. Miller also participated in UNC’s Legal Assistance Clinic whereby she helped represent indigent clients obtain legal counsel primarily in the area of domestic relations.

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One comment on “Is neglect reason enough to change custody?

    My daughter is being neglected and no one is helping me stop it. My daughters father is neglecting to take her to school or doctor and refusing counseling. my daughter is 6. we are currently fighting for custody we are on a second interm plan and just went to court to get him for contempt. i have made multiple reports to the state, police and have brought proof to court and the judge acknowledges it but does nothing. No contempt no change in orders or anything. Someone please help.

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