What Is an Unfit Parent?

By Jones & Associates Law P.C.

While the property division phase of a divorce can be messy, some things hold more value than property and assets. A parent-child relationship is meaningful and important, making child custody an especially difficult family law issue during a marriage dissolution. These disputes can turn nasty quickly. This is especially certain in matters where one parent asserts that the other parent is unfit.

Legal Meaning

While the term “unfit parent” can loosely be thrown around during a child custody disagreement, it can also hold context in the matter, especially when social services are involved. While there is not a universally accepted definition of an unfit parent, the term has legal significance in a child custody matter and is defined by the state or jurisdiction of the matter.

Oftentimes, a designation of parental unfitness signifies that improper care is provided to the child, the child is neglected, the child is abused or faced with extreme discipline, the parent suffers from alcohol and substance abuse, or the parent has a serious criminal record.

Reasons a Parent Is Determined to Be Unfit

Whether it is the police, child protective services or the other parent that initiated the claim, a legal process can make the final determination that a parent is unfit. This could result in legal consequences for that parent, including suspended visitation, supervised visitation or even the termination of parental rights.

While abuse and mistreatment may be the reasons a parent is deemed unfit, there are other situations where a court may establish that a parent is unfit. These can include mental illness, substance abuse and neglect.

No matter the situation that gives rise to a family law matter that concerns a parent being unfit, it is important that parents understand their rights. Whether a parent is claiming the other parent is unfit or they are being accused of being unfit, it is imperative to understand what rights and options one has. This not only ensures your rights are protected but the best interests of the child are met.