Establishing child custody is often the most contentious and emotionally draining aspect of divorce. This is especially true if one parent strongly believes the other parent is unstable and ultimately unfit to adequately raise the children. Family courts make custody decisions based on what is in the best interests of the children. If it is determined that one parent cannot provide a safe, happy, or healthy home environment, than it would not be in the best interests of the kids to live with that parent or visit that parent on a regular basis. Depending on the specific facts of the case, a court may award limited visitation, supervised visitation, or no visitation at all.
If you are concerned about your ex-spouse’s ability to care for your children and want to pursue sole legal and physical custody, it’s essential to retain the services of an experienced child custody lawyer. A child custody lawyer will know the custody laws in your jurisdiction and what constitutes an “unfit parent.” Additionally, a family law firm will have the resources needed to investigate the conduct of your ex and gather the right evidence to prove their unfitness.
What Makes Someone An Unfit Parent?
Pattern of Child Abuse
Child abuse comes in many forms but can generally be defined as any activity or behavior by a parent that endangers the physical or emotional well-being of their child. Child abuse can have a lasting impact on a child’s life. It can damage their self-worth, affect their performance in school, cause depression, anxiety or an eating disorder, and make it harder for them to maintain healthy relationships.
The judge in your case will want you to provide concrete evidence that child abuse took place. This may include photographs, audio and/or video files, police reports, restraining or protection orders, medical records from your child’s therapists and doctors, etc. It’s also valuable to identify witnesses who have seen abusive acts firsthand and who are willing to testify during a custody hearing.
Substance Abuse Problem
If the mother or father of your children has an addiction to illegal or prescription drugs, or alcohol, they most likely lack the judgement and ability to make rational decisions related to your children’s well-being. Leaving your kids alone with them can cause great concern and worry. A judge will take into consideration many factors when evaluating substance abuse including whether or not there is a documented history of addiction, existence of recent failed drug tests or refusals to seek treatment, as well as any incidents in which the children witnessed drug or alcohol abuse or were put in danger due to intoxicated behavior.
Criminal History/Domestic Violence
If your ex-partner has a history of exhibiting violent behavior against you or others, they may not be deemed safe to be around your children. Gather evidence such as restraining orders, police reports, and criminal convictions to show a pattern of unstable behavior.
Poor Mental, Physical, or Emotional Health
A parent who suffers from a physical ailment, mental illness, or emotional condition may be rendered incapable of caring for a child. A physical disability can be very limiting and prevent the parent from doing the everyday tasks necessary to adequately provide a safe environment. Parents who suffer from depression, an anxiety disorder or bipolar disorder, or other mental illness may be distant and withdrawn from their children, or quick to anger. Evidence needed to prove a physical, mental or emotional condition may include medical records, psychiatric evaluation,
Failure to Pay Child Support
If your ex-spouse has repeatedly failed to meet his or her child support obligation it reflects poorly on their willingness and ability to provide for your children.
Demonstrate Why You Are The Better Parent
The court wants to ensure that children are going to a safe, nurturing, child-friendly home and that their physical and emotional needs will be met. It’s not enough to just prove that your ex-spouse is an unfit parent, you’ll need to demonstrate why you are the better parent.
Share a Strong Bond
Showcase the special bond you share with your children. Share photos and/or videos of you spending quality time with them, taking them on adventures, cheering for them at school or sporting events, etc. Demonstrate the affection your children have for you — gather cards they’ve made for you, loving text messages or voicemails they’ve sent, etc. Find witnesses that have observed your interactions with your children over a long period of time such as relatives, neighbors, friends, pastors, teachers, priests, caretakers and doctors.
Provide a Stable Living Environment – The court will want to see that you have developed an established routine for your children including bedtime, eating schedule, school drop off and pick-up, doctor and dentist check-ups and after school activities. This will help support that you are a nurturing parent that has provided a stable living environment.
Committed to Their Education
It will be important to show the court that you are heavily involved in your child’s education — you attend school activities, such as parent-teacher meetings, assemblies, sporting events, etc. Keep record of all the activities that you attend. developed a rapport with teachers and coaches, show projects you’ve done with the child, any awards child has won, grades
Having a steady job illustrates that you have the financial means to care for your children. You must be able to demonstrate that while devoted to your profession, your children remain your number one priority. It’s important to show that you have a flexible schedule and will be available to pick them up and drop them off at school or have made arrangements with others to do so.