The safety of a child should always be the first and foremost concern of any parent or guardian. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. There are various circumstances where the court system will get involved regarding child custody to protect a child’s well-being.
To help ensure a child’s safety, the court system may take away child custody from parents that are deemed unfit. But what does it mean for a parent to be “unfit”? There are various reasons a parent may be deemed unfit to take care of his or her child, thus losing custody.
What Does it Mean to Be an “Unfit” Parent?
Being an unfit parent means that a parent is incapable of caring for his or her child and ensuring the child’s well-being. According to child custody lawyers at Fernandez & Karney in Los Angeles, “Only in rare cases do California judges cut parents off from their children,” they continue, “an unfit parent is a parent who, through their conduct, fails to provide proper guidance, care, or support to their children.”
While some people’s opinions may differ as to what they deem as “unfit parenting”, the courts have strict guidelines and procedures in determining a parent’s capacity to be a parent. In many child custody cases, significant evidence must be shown to support allegations or claims of abuse, neglect, addiction, domestic violence, and/or mental illness.
Factors in Child Custody Evaluations
The court system has multiple resources to help assist in child custody evaluations. Ultimately, the court and the court-appointed child custody investigator will review the information and determine the best custody outcome for the child.
Several factors will play a role in making a child custody decision:
- Whether the parent sets age-appropriate activities
- How the parent handles conflict and social interactions
- A child’s feelings toward each parent or guardian
- Whether the parent uses responsible parenting styles and techniques
- History of abandonment or neglect
- Allegations of parental alienation by either of the parents
- Whether there is domestic violence in the household
- If a parent has or has had substance abuse problems
- If there is or was any evidence of child abuse
Evidence to Prove an Unfit Parent
To prove a parent is unfit to take care of their child requires significant proof. Accusations and claims of others can only go far.
Evidence that may demonstrate a parent’s inability to take care of his or her child can include:
- Criminal records
- Police reports
- School records
- Medical records
- Testimony from professionals (teachers, therapists, coaches, etc.)
- Photos or videos of a parent’s home
- Home visit and inspection reports
- Social media usage
What Happens if a Parent is Deemed Unfit?
The outcome of a child custody case that involves a potentially unfit parent depends on the circumstances.
Common outcomes include:
- Requiring the parent to have supervised visits
- Requiring the parent to have restricted visitation
- Granting sole physical custody to a fit parent or other guardian
- Granting sole legal custody to a fit parent or other guardian
- Terminating a parent’s parental right
- Placement of the child for adoption
Handling Child Custody Cases
Everyone involved in a child custody case wants what is best and safest for the child. A child should be raised in an environment that is safe and encouraging and free from abuse and neglect.
If you or a loved one are currently involved in a child custody case, speak with an experienced child custody or family law attorney. An attorney can help secure a child custody ruling that allows you to be an active participant in your child’s life.