All children deserve love and attention from their parents. Without this, children may struggle to thrive as children and even as adults. Yet, in the throes of divorce, it often becomes difficult for parents to give their children the attention they deserve. Parents may find they are too busy or pre-occupied with mourning the loss of the relationship or fighting the divorce in court to properly care for children.
If it is shown that a parent cannot (or will not) care for his or her children, the court may intervene on the child’s behalf. The resulting situation is known as child, or juvenile, dependency. Courts will investigate each case through hearings in order to determine whether parents have willfully neglected or abused their children. Hearings may also be held if the child is under the watch of a caregiver who is similarly suspected of neglect or abuse. The court’s goal is to protect the children, and, in the best case, but dysfunctional families back together.
A hearing typically begins with the court working to determine whether there is actually a case. After all, allegations of neglect or abuse could be the result of a jealous ex-spouse looking to exact revenge. If that is the case, the charges will likely be thrown out. Alternatively, if the charges are substantiated, a court will have to decide whether the child can remain in the current home with the charged parent. If the court does not believe this would be in the child’s best interests, the judge will create orders to protect the child. The judge may order that a child remains in the parent’s home2 but under court-appointed supervision. Or, the judge may order the child to begin living in another home under supervision as well.
Depending on the circumstances, courts may provide help to parents who wish to eventually reunite with their children. For example, parents may be given access to parenting classes and therapy to help them learn how to parent more effectively and how to deal with the stress of raising children. Whether a parent is able to follow such steps and regain full custody varies. It is the goal of most courts, however.