How to Recognize When Your Child Is in an Unsafe Environment

In the United States, divorce is commonplace. Just because you may be divorced, that does not mean you are not still a parent. As a parent, part of your job is to make sure your child is living in a stable and safe environment. 

Perhaps your relationship with your ex-spouse is not good, or your ex-spouse has someone new in the life of your child. If so, you may be concerned about your child’s safety and environment. You may find that you are asking yourself: What is considered to be an unsafe environment for a child?  This article will answer those questions.

What Is Considered to be an Unsafe Environment for A Child?

After a divorce, your emotions could be running high, which could make you believe that your child is in an unsafe environment.  Households that are not in order or allow your child to participate in a sport in which they could become injured do not qualify as creating an unsafe environment for your child.

The court will intercede in certain circumstances when a child is placed in an unsafe environment. They include:

  1. Physical and/or Emotional Abuse
  2. Neglect – Your child is not receiving what they need
  3. Not supplying enough food or giving your child appropriate medical attention
  4. Not keeping any type of firearms safely stored away from the child’s reach.
  5. Someone in the household using illegal drugs
  6. Domestic violence – This behavior can either be directed at the child or another member of the household.
  7. Sexual abuse
  8. Child’s Parents Fighting – Do not fight in front of your child. Children are quite intuitive, and they know the difference between a petty spat and hatred.
  9. Discipline: Corporal punishment is never okay! Neither is degrading your child in any manner. Also, putting your child in isolation for a long period or restraining them in any way is also never okay!
  10. Unsafe Schools: If you do nothing to stop your child being subjected to verbal abuse by their teacher or being bullied, this is an unsafe environment. 
  11. Psychiatric Illness: Mental health problems generally do not affect child custody or visitation rights. However, if you or your spouse suffer from a mental illness that could pose a risk to your child, this is not a safe environment. 
  12. Social Functioning: It is important that your child have social interactions with other people. If this is not being provided, it could be deemed that your child is in an unsafe environment. 
  13. How Your Child Feels about Their Parents: It is important that you know how your child feels about you and your ex-spouse. If your child shows any type of fear toward a parent or seems uncomfortable with a parent, something could be going on that is unsafe for your child. 

What Actions Can I Take if My Child Is in an Unsafe Environment?

You may feel that you can handle the situation without legal help if your child is in an unsafe environment. The truth is that this attitude may only make the situation worse than it already is. 

If you feel your child is in an unsafe environment, you can have your attorney file an emergency motion with the court, which will suspend visitation rights or temporarily change custody rights until the situation is resolved.  

If your child is being subjected to violence in the form of child abuse, you can have your attorney file a petition for an injunction that prohibits the child’s other parent from seeing your child temporarily and/or until the situation has improved. 

Request A Protection Order

Your attorney may also request that the court provide a protection order, which will give you a restraining order against anyone who could hurt your child. This protection order will restrict the conduct and actions of whomever has been violent or made threats of violence against your child. 

If your child is under the age of 18, you would file for a restraining order on their behalf. If the court grants your petition and gives you a protection order, it will put restrictions on whomever is harming your child. 

These restrictions include:

  • No form of contact with you or the child
  • The person may be ordered to move out of any residence you share, even if it is in their name.
  • They may be ordered to pay for any costs that were direct results of the abuse, such as medical and/or moving expenses.
  • They have to stay a specific distance away from your child’s home and places they normally frequent, such as their school. 

If the restrictions ordered by the court are violated in any way, you would be able to call the police and file criminal charges against them.  However, in order to obtain a protection order, you must present very specific evidence, which must show that your child has been harmed in the past or that threats may cause your child future harm. In order to get the ultimate protection for your child, you must have a protection order in place. 


So what is considered to be an unsafe environment for a child?  As you can see from the above information, the list is quite long.  It is unfortunate that some parents view their child as a burden or regret having a child.  Many children grow up in a home environment that is not safe. 

As a parent, you need to understand the signs to watch out for, so you can make a difference in your child’s life. While most parents can provide the necessities of life (such as food, clothing, and a home), many parents do not realize that they also have a duty to provide a safe and loving environment for their child.

The most important thing you can do as a parent is pay attention to your child, as many children will show changes in behavior when something wrong is occurring in  their lives.