During a divorce, the court has a preference for joint custody when dealing with children. Children are typically emotionally healthier when allowed to spend equal time with both parents, and the parents benefit from the arrangement as well.
In some cases, one parent may seek sole custody of the children by using the term unfit to describe the other parent. This label could interfere with your ability to share custody with your ex-spouse or have access to your child.
Declaration of being an unfit parent
The law defines an unfit parent according to several factors, though the standard is when the conduct of the parent fails to provide the child with proper care, guidance or support. A history of neglect, abuse or substance use can also deem a parent unfit. In a majority of cases, Child Welfare Services investigates if there are allegations of abuse or neglect, providing evidence to support any claims made in court.
Investigations involving an unfit parent
During the divorce, either the parent seeking sole custody or the judge can request a formal custody evaluation. In this process, a court-appointed evaluator uses several factors to determine if the child’s health, welfare or safety is at risk. The evaluator assesses the parent’s ability to set age-appropriate limits, responses to the child’s needs, as well as the history of involvement with childcare or claims of abuse or violence.
The investigation also looks at the relationship between the parent and child, and the overall social and mental abilities of the parent in question. If the assessment is not satisfactory, the court could determine a parent unfit for child custody.