Factors To Determine Unfit Parent In Custody

Last Updated on January 23, 2024 by Lori Pace

Every parent is imperfect so even minor imperfections won’t deprive a parent their rights. However, being unfit will result in the court limiting or reducing the interaction between the parent and the child.

Custody disputes are often the most difficult part of a separation or divorce. Both parents want to spend as much time with their child as possible. The court will make the decision about what is best for the child when determining custody.

What Is An Unfit Parent?

Unfit parents are those who, by their behavior, fail to provide adequate guidance, support, or care. A parent who is unable to provide proper guidance, care, or support due to abuse, neglect, substance abuse, or other issues will also be considered unfit.

In most cases, a parent is deemed unfit . Child Welfare Services may have been involved. There may be a safety plan and/or an active investigation against the parent. In the event of a divorce, the parents may not agree on custody or the trustworthiness of one parent with the children.

A child custody assessment may be conducted on the orders of a judge, or upon request by a parent. This evaluation is done to determine whether allowing either parent custody is in the child’s best interests or if the child’s safety, health, and welfare may be at risk.

Factors That The Evaluator Checks For An Unfit Parent

Attitude Of The Child Toward The Parent

  • What does the child think of the parent?
  • Are the parents able to make the child feel at ease?
  • Is the child afraid for the parent?

Both parents must foster positive relationships between their children and their parents. It is vital that the child does not hate one parent.

A child who is concerned or acting out prior to visits could indicate that there is a problem in their relationship. Listen to your child and take appropriate action when necessary.

Child Abuse

  • Is there a history of child abuse by the parent with this child or another child?
  • What’s the current situation?

Child Welfare Services may have been involved in the household of a parent a lot. This could indicate that custody should be changed. Child Welfare Services might have conducted a thorough investigation of a household in order to determine if abuse or neglect should not be proven.

Child Abuse

They will issue an immediate safety plan if they are concerned. You can then bring it to court to get emergency custody orders. Although Child Welfare Services Involvement may not be a good sign, it can indicate that the case has been closed and is not being investigated.

Domestic Violence

  • Is the parent physically or emotionally abusive towards the other parent?
  • Is the child present?

A child cannot be a witness to domestic abuse. A parent cannot be abusive to another parent. There are resources that you can use to help reduce the interaction, such as a domestic violence order, counseling for the perpetrator of domestic abuse classes.

History Of Childcare Involvement

  • Is the parent a proven track record in looking after the welfare of the child?
  • Is the parent relying too heavily on the other parent for care?

Both parents need reliable childcare. All information should be shared. Both parents must be able and willing to care for the child without assistance. It is possible that they are dependent on the parent or other family members to take care of their child. This could indicate that a change in custody may be necessary.

Methods For Resolving The Custody Conflict With The Other Parent

  • What was the cooperation and reasonableness of the parents during the divorce proceedings?
  • Is the parent refusing to compromise or communicate with you?
Custody Conflict

It is difficult to co-parent! Although it takes much effort to build a good relationship with your co-parent, it is possible. Your child will feel the same if one parent constantly ridicules the other or makes every decision in an argument.

Lack of positive decision-making and cooperation can lead to custody being changed, giving one parent the power to make decisions.

Psychiatric Illness Of An Unfit Parent

  • Is the parent suffering from a psychiatric disorder that could pose a threat to the welfare and well-being of the child?

While mental health issues do not automatically result in a reduction of time or custody, the parent will need documentation to prove that they have received treatment.

A positive outcome for all is possible if a parent takes responsibility for their mental health and is on top of their medication. This can lead to serious consequences if the parent does not take care of their mental health.

Setting Age-Appropriate Limits

  • Is it okay for a 5-year-old child to watch R-rated movies regularly?
  • What curfew is imposed by a parent on a teenager?

While parents may not agree on what age appropriate limits are, if one parent allows extreme situations, it could be a red flag. 

Parents who share legal custody should make joint decisions about what age is appropriate, but not little things like bedtime. Co-parenting is a way to make sure your child is safe and secure.

Substance Abuse

  • Are there any issues with the parent’s use of prescription, illegal, or alcohol drugs?

You can request a modification to your custody order if you have evidence of substance abuse by the parent. The court can order parents to stop using legal drugs like marijuana in order to protect the child’s safety. To also determine the extent of substance abuse, Substance Abuse Assessments can be ordered.

Social Functioning Of An Unfit Parent

  • Are there any social issues affecting the parent?

The child should have positive memories and interactions with both parents by participating in social activities. A negative impact on a child can be caused by one parent being against participation or even attending activities.

Understanding And Responding To The Child’s Needs

  • How sensitive are parents to their child’s needs and wants?
  • Is the parent trying to communicate with the child in a way that is understandable?
  • How responsive is the parent towards the child?

A child must feel heard and taken care of by both parents. Because navigating two households can be just as difficult for the child and for their parents.

It is vital that the child feels the ability to communicate with their parents regardless of where they live. Is it appropriate for a parent to respond appropriately and seek help if there is a disconnect? These are the essential characteristics of a strong partnership.

Lori Pace
Lori Pace

Lori Pace is a single mother of three daughters ages 7 and under. As a working mom from home, she balances kids, work and two crazy dogs with humor and love. Follow Lori as she honestly gives tips and advice based on her own experiences as a single mom!