Parenting is very important in a child’s development. This makes parental fitness a very sensitive issue especially in cases where child custody is in question. Determining which parent should have sole or primary custody of a child comes up very often in divorce cases, as well as in the situation where a child is born out of wedlock.

Most custody cases are settled in a custody court and in the process of determining which parent should be the legal guardian of the child, the issue of the parents’ fitness is called into question. This emphasizes the importance of the “unfit” definition.

What is an Unfit Parent?

The definition of an unfit parent is often determined by a state’s law and policies, which is different from state to state. Generally, an unfit parent is one who, by habit or conducts towards others (the child in question or other individuals involved in raising the child), cannot provide the child with the required level of guidance and support. Although the above definition can be interpreted in several ways, it does not clearly state which specific acts automatically deny a parent custody of their child.

In some cases, imprisonment is not enough to deem a parent unfit to raise their child, except if the offense was potentially dangerous to the child’s wellbeing. Generally, a parent is often deemed unfit if they have mental issues, history with child abuse or addiction to drugs and alcohol. There are other ways by which parents are determined to be unfit for child custody, and these ways will be explained.

How to Identify an Unfit Parent

When dealing with cases of child custody and guardianship, it is generally assumed that both parents are fit to bring up their children until proven otherwise. In determining parental unfitness, some factors are put into consideration and some of them are –

  • Alcoholism and Drugs: Addiction to alcohol and drug abuse automatically disqualifies a parent from full custody of their child. Parents that have issues with alcohol or drug abuse are usually not allowed custody of their children.
  • Domestic Violence: Domestic abuse is often regarded to as violence or abuse by one person to another often in a family setting. Domestic violence is used to deem a parent unfit of child custody in cases where the parent in question has physically or emotionally abused the other parent.
  • Psychiatric Illness: There are often cases where the parent in question is suffering from a psychiatric illness. The custody court then determines if the parent have mental disabilities that might pose a risk to the wellbeing of the child.
  • Social Wellbeing: Although this might not be a big determinant when proving a parent’s fitness in child care, but it is important to know if the parent has any social issues that might negatively impact the child.
  • Child Abuse: Some parents have a track record of willfully denying their children basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter and other necessities despite having the means. If proven in custody court, such parents are denied total care of the child.
  • Childs attitude towards both parents: Sometimes, the court observes the way a child interacts with both parent and grants custody to the parent with whom the child feels most comfortable.

How to Identify an Unfit Parent

Often, in a child custody case, both parents are out to discredit each other’s parenting ability and it is up to the judge to determine which parent is most fit to take care of the child. In the situation where a child is currently in custody of an unfit mother, you need to initiate a court case to get the court to modify or terminate the mother’s custody rights. Here are the steps required:

  • Conduct a detailed study on your community’s criteria for an unfit parent. They are usually documented in family or juveniles code of conduct.
  • Gather evidence in form of audio, video and photographic files that can prove a parent’s history of physical or verbal abuse. It is important to note that this evidence should not be doctored in anyway or else you will be held in contempt of court.
  • It is also necessary to schedule an appointment with a medical or mental health practitioner for evaluation of both parents and the child.
  • Up next, is to serve these document to the other parent. It is often advised that a law enforcement agent be present during this process.
  • Attend the hearing at the custody courts and participate fully during child custody evaluation.
  • Lastly, attend the hearing to listen to the final ruling.​​​​

Proof Is Important

Proving a parent is unfit to look after a child is a rigorous process, but one that is very important. Doing so can prevent children from going through abuse that could impact that development considerably.

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