When it comes to determining child custody in a divorce, heated disputes are fairly common. The adjustment to spending less time with their children can be emotionally very difficult for both parents, and if parenting disagreements were part of the impetus for the divorce, a power struggle can ensue.

A particularly contentious case making headlines lately involves a missing toddler whose parents had been locked in a custody battle. The father of the 2-year-old, who disappeared Nov. 6, suspects his son’s disappearance has everything to do with the couple’s disagreement.

About a week before he went missing, the boy’s parents reached a tentative custody agreement that gave some visitation rights to the father. Two days later, however, the mother pulled out of the agreement. Her lawyer reported the woman thought the settlement was unfair and that everyone involved in the mediation session was against her.

A few days later, the boy disappeared. His mother said he hadn’t been feeling well, so she took him and the couple’s 4-year-old daughter to the hospital. On the way there, she said, her car ran out of gas, so she left the boy in the car and walked with her 4-year-old to the nearest town. When they returned to the car, she said, the boy was gone.

Local and state police have been out in force looking for the child, and the father has recruited volunteers to assist in the search. He said he has agreed to take two polygraph tests.

The mother, meanwhile, has hired a criminal lawyer and refused to comment on her husband’s allegations that she knows where their son is. She has refused to take a polygraph, though there are some lingering questions about the day her son disappeared. Police say that she never ended up buying gas or seeking help in the affluent neighborhood they walked to, and that when they tested the car, it ran without a problem.

The case is still being investigated, and the boy remains missing. If someday the mother is found to have hidden the boy in an effort to keep him to herself, she may lose more or all of the custody she hoped to maintain.

Sorting out child custody is never easy, but working with a family law professional can simplify the process and ensure you and your spouse reach a settlement you can both live with.

Source: ABC News, “Sky’s Father Says Disappearance Linked to Custody Dispute,” Katie Kindelan, Nov. 14, 2011