Signs That Your Ex May Be Neglecting Your Children




In the best-case scenarios, both parents in a divorce strive to make sure the interests and needs of the children are paramount – lessening the impact of the parental split as best they can.

But scenarios aren’t always best case, and in some instances the parent who is awarded custody neglects the children – putting those sons and daughters at risk of emotional harm, physical harm, sexual abuse or even death.

That means it’s important for the other parent or other adults to watch for red flags that indicate the children aren’t getting the care they need, says Yoni Levoritz (, an attorney who specializes in matrimonial law, including divorce, child custody and child neglect cases.

“Kids don’t always talk about what is happening to them,” he says. “That could be because they are afraid of further abuse, they want to protect the abuser, or they simply believe no one will listen to them.” 

Levoritz says some red flags include:

  • Failure to thrive. This is a general term that addresses a child’s failure to gain an age-appropriate amount of height or weight. Slower development may also include inability to master the skills and abilities already demonstrated by their peers, such as talking and socializing.
  • Poor hygiene. Matted hair, dirty skin, and prevalent body odor are all signs that a child’s physical needs are not being attended to at home. “If the child says that Mom or Dad never makes him take baths, you have to wonder why,” Levoritz says.
  • Malnutrition. Malnourished children are easy to spot. They are thin in a way that has nothing to do with high energy levels, and go to great lengths to steal or hoard food. “If your son has a huge appetite and his pockets and backpack are loaded with his favorite foods prior to leaving your home,” Levoritz says, “that’s a sign he’s not getting much nutrition at his other home.”
  • Frequent illness. Neglected children are often sick because they aren’t eating enough at home, their clothing may be inappropriate for the season, and any physical or medical problems are being ignored by the primary caregiver, Levoritz says.
  • Comments about being alone. Sometimes a child will confirm your suspicions by letting it slip that no one is ever home to care for them or that they are left unsupervised for long periods. “If your son says that your ex is out every night with her new boyfriend while he puts himself to bed, the child might be living under the wrong roof,” Levoritz says.

“If you become worried that a child is being neglected, you should share your concerns with your attorney or the proper authorities,” Levoritz says. “Fortunately, most children in divorces do get the proper care, but it’s critical that those who are at risk get the help they need as quickly as possible.”

Yoni Levoritz, founder of the Levoritz Law Group (, practices matrimonial and family law, business law and civil law, and is an AV-rated attorney by Martindale-Hubbell. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland and a law degree from Touro College, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center. In 2008, Levoritz was named Professional of the Year in Matrimonial Law by Strathmore’s Who’s Who. At the time, he was the youngest attorney to be awarded this honor.