In a child custody case, if you are found to be an “unfit” parent, you will likely lose your ability to be granted custody rights. Being declared unfit can also end in the termination of your parental rights outright even after custody has been previously given. This matter can also arise when one parent wishes to relocate the child to a distant part of the state or out of state altogether. It can additionally surface in adoptions as well. Therefore, it is important to understand what makes a parent unfit in the view of a family law court.
Courts will look at many factors when determining a parent’s fitness. These factors can include what a parent has or hasn’t done as well as how stable the parent appears to be emotionally, financially, and in other ways.
Factors that can result in a ruling that a parent is not fit for the responsibilities associated with raising a child can include:
- Has the parent ever put the child’s life in danger?
- Has a parent engaged in discipline of the child that is unreasonable or unreasonably harsh?
- Has evidence been presented of some type of abuse by the parent against the child, such as physical, emotional, or sexual abuse?
- Has the parent failed to report any abuse that he or she suspected has occurred against the child?
- Has the parent allowed the child to stay out of school?
- Has the parent neglected to ensure that the child received needed medical attention?
- Has the parent failed to provide for the child’s basic needs, such as food, shelter, clothing, hygiene, etc.?
- Is the parent a chronic abuser of alcohol or drugs?
- Does the parent have a disease or medical condition that prevents him or her from caring for the child?
- Does the parent have a mental illness?
- Has the parent been convicted of a crime or does the parent associate with known criminals?
- Is the parent currently incarcerated and thus unable to care for the child?
- Has the parent left the child alone without supervision?
- Has the parents subjected the child to an unsafe, unsavory, or uninhabitable living environment?
- Has the parent engaged in domestic violence against the child or other family members?
Basically, an unfit parent is someone who generally, whether purposely or not, may be putting the physical safety or emotional needs of the child in danger. Deciding this issue, of course, is done on a case-by-case basis as every case is different. For example, if a parent is ill or disabled, the court may try to work something out that will benefit both the child and the parent so that their relationship can be continued, even if on a limited basis. In other cases, such as parent falling into substance abuse, the court may temporarily suspend custody rights until the parent can regain control of his or her life. Generally speaking, courts do not favor removing a parent from a child’s life unless it has been proven that the child will be at risk for harm if custody is given or remains.
Need Help in a Chattanooga Custody Case?
Custody cases can be extremely challenging, emotionally, financially, and legally. That is why you need a trusted legal advocate in your corner who has experience handling these sensitive matters. At Conner & Roberts, PLLC, you can rely on the knowledge and experience of our legal team. Whether you are seeking to have a parent declared unfit or contesting such a case, we can apply our skills and resources to fighting for your parental rights and the best interests of your child. We understand the stress of such proceedings and are here to ensure your representation is supportive, ethical, and aggressive in court.