How Does Family Court Determine If a Parent is Unfit?
One of the most challenging and contentious aspects of a breakup, separation, or divorce is the issue of child custody, which is also called conservatorship, possession, and access in Texas. In most cases, both parents will fight to gain custody of their children. But when making child custody determinations, the family court will always consider the children’s best interests above everything else.
Still, parents might fail to agree on basic custody issues, or one of them might consider the other parent unfit for custody. When this happens, a parent’s request or a judge’s order, a custody hearing will be held to determine if granting custody or visitation rights to an “allegedly” unfit parent might put the child’s safety, wellbeing, and health at risk.
What Exactly is an Unfit Parent?
Generally speaking, unfit parents are those who could potentially have a negative and significant impact on the physical and emotional wellbeing and safety of a child. The family court typically considers the following factors as proof of a parent’s unfitness:
- A history of neglect, abuse, and violence
- Failure of the parent to provide life’s basic necessities to the child
- The child’s exposure to psychologically damaging or emotionally harmful situations
It’s also vital to note that the court is more likely to consider a parent unfit if it concludes that these negative conditions and factors would possibly continue, worsen, or don’t change in the future.
For instance, let’s say that your ex-spouse has been sober for two years now but has recently relapsed. They begin missing visits with your children and, when they do visit, they always show up very drunk and end up neglecting your children. You could then present evidence of your ex-spouse’s parental unfitness in family court and ask the judge to modify the existing visitation or custody orders.
What Happens if a Parent is Found to be Unfit?
The court does not expect parents to be perfect, so minor parenting mistakes won’t automatically strip parents of their parental rights. But when the court deems a parent unfit, it might:
- Limit or reduce the interaction or visits between the children and the unfit parent
- Deny or modify the existing visitation order
- Deny custody to the unfit parent or give the other parent custody
- Terminate the unfit parent’s parental rights
- In cases where both parents are deemed unfit, the court might consider adoption
But before the court deems a parent unfit, the other parent must provide evidence of the parent’s unfitness. The accused parent would then be given the chance to defend themselves and dispute the allegations of unfitness.
Consult with a Skilled Fort Worth Family Lawyer Today
Unfit parent proceedings involve major legal issues and decisions that will have a huge impact on your child’s upbringing. If you have been accused of being an unfit parent or believe that your child’s custodial parent is an unfit parent, you can contact Fort Worth family lawyer Kyle Whitaker to discuss your case. To schedule your appointment, please call 817-332-7703 or reach out to us online.