What to Do If You Believe Your Spouse is Unfit to Have Custody
The parent and child relationship comes with endless joys but also multiple responsibilities. Among those responsibilities include feeding the child, clothing the child, taking the child to and from school and community activities, washing the child, providing medical care to the child, loving the child, etc. Unfortunately, not every parent bears the qualities of a fit parent.
Claiming that your spouse is an unfit parent often occurs during custody battles. Dealing with child custody issues can be the most important and stressful part of a divorce, and this is especially true in cases where one spouse believes the other is unfit to have custody of the child—whether sole or joint. But what does it mean to be “unfit”? Behavior indicative of being unfit includes child abuse, neglect, and the parent’s abuse of alcohol, drugs, or controlled substances. This is what people normally think of when they hear the word “unfit.”
However, being an unfit parent could also result from behavior that is less drastic but nevertheless harmful for the child’s overall wellbeing. For instance, failing to pick the child up after school or leaving the child unattended at a large public event on more than one occasion could also be used as evidence of an unfit parent. Additionally, failing to clothe the child during cold weather, letting the child wander the neighborhood alone at a tender age, or showing up to school or community events drunk may also qualify as unfit parental behavior.
As soon as one parent believes that the other is unfit to have custody of the child, this information is filed and presented to the court. While the rules differ from state to state on what constitutes an unfit parent and the process for proving this assertion, the procedure generally follows the same path. In order to proceed with your case, firstly, you need more than allegations—you need evidence. Evidence here can be in the form of testimony, videos, doctor’s reports, photographs, emails, blood tests, etc. The parent alleged to be “unfit” has the right to have notice that a petition has been filed against them as well as the right to a hearing to present their side of the story. Both parties present their stories to the judge. The judge will then have to decide whether the alleged information warrants the denial of custody, visitation rights, and other parental rights.
When making this decision, it is important to note that the judge will always consider the best interests of the child. For instance, even though it is important for the child to have a healthy and ongoing relationship with both parents, this cannot occur where one parent has exhibited certain behaviors or actions indicative of an unfit parent. If the court determines that a parent is an unfit parent, that parent could be denied custody or could have their current custody revoked. In addition, routine visits with the child may be terminated along with other parental decision-making responsibilities regarding the child’s upbringing such as decisions regarding the child’s religion, education, and other important activities.