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How Does a Family Court Determine if a Parent is Unfit?

Posted On January 4, 2021 In Child Custody

Family courts in Arizona start with the assumption that contact with both parents is the ideal situation for any child.  However, some circumstances call for limited or no contact at all with one or both parents due to their lack of fitness to parent their child.  

When there is uncertainty about a parent’s fitness to provide for their child’s best interests, the family court orders a child custody evaluator to review the parents’ fitness.  The child custody evaluator examines the following factors and more before making any decisions about legal parental relationships with the child.

  • Does the parent set age-appropriate limits?  Are age-appropriate boundaries imposed and curfews in place?
  • Does the parent understand and respond to the child’s needs?  Does the child feel heard, cared for, and is there a parental bond?
  • Is there a history of childcare involvement on the parent’s behalf?  Can the parent care for the child without any assistance from others?  Is the parent a primary caregiver of the child?
  • Is the parent capable of co-parenting?   Can the parent work productively and make decisions with the other parent for the welfare of the child?
  • Is there a history of child abuse?  Does the parent have a history of child abuse with this or any other child?  Is Child Welfare Services involved in the parent’s household?
  • Is there a history of domestic violence?  Has the parent physically or emotionally abused the other parent?  Was the child a witness to the abuse?
  • Does the parent abuse alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription drugs?  A substance abuse assessment may prove necessary.
  • Does the parent suffer from any untreated mental health issues?  Any untreated mental health issues may pose a danger to the child.
  • Is the parent against social interaction and activities?  Lack of socialization can negatively impact the health and welfare of the child.
  • How does the child feel towards the parent?  Is the child comfortable with the parent or apprehensive and afraid of the parent?  Is the other parent creating concern in the child, or is there a problem with the parent/child relationship?

After the child custody evaluator completes their investigation, they prepare a report for the court.  If a parent disagrees with the evidence presented in the report, that parent may refute the report with their testimony and evidence.

In addition to a child custody evaluator, the court can appoint counsel for the child.  This is common in high conflict custody cases.

How to Prove the Other Parent is Unfit

Child custody evaluators examine documentary evidence, conduct interviews with family members and professionals, and much more when preparing their court report.  To solidify a claim that the other parent is unfit, a parent can do the following:  

  • Gather documentary evidence such as police or court records about the other parent;
  • Gather evidence on incidents involving the child while in the care of the other parent;
  • Present supporting witnesses;
  • Take the child to an expert if abuse is at issue;
  • Show no hostility towards the other parent; and
  • Hire an experienced family law attorney.

Whether you fear your spouse is unable to provide for your child’s best interests or your spouse accused you of being an unfit parent, call Wilson-Goodman Law Group, PLLC.  Our experienced Chandler divorce attorneys can help you learn more about the factors discussed above and fight aggressively for you and your child.

At Wilson-Goodman, PLLC, we will provide you with a professional legal strategy and work tirelessly to identify and clarify the evidence that your child should remain in your care.  Contact our office today to schedule your confidential consultation.