Factors Used to Determine if You Are Unfit for Child Custody

November 9, 2021

Deciding on a child custody arrangement can be easy, if the parents are amicable—but if one or both parents feel the other is unfit for custody, things can become significantly more difficult. Working with a child custody attorney is the best way to ensure your child’s needs and interests are put first.

Florida courts are bound by Florida Statute Section 751.05, which declares that a parent who has abused, neglected or abandoned their child, or who suffers from substance abuse or mental illness, is unfit for custody. Read on for an overview of how this could affect your case.

Determining fitness for custody

When evaluating parental fitness for custody, the courts will examine evidence of a parent’s abuse, neglect, abandonment, mental illness and/or substance abuse. They will consider whether the issues are recent, whether the parent has gotten help for their conditions and whether they have a long-standing history with these problems.

Here’s how these issues may affect custody. Your child custody lawyer can discuss the particulars of your case with you:

  • Abuse: Abuse comes in many forms, including physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse. Children who are abused may suffer lasting emotional, psychological and physical injuries throughout their lifetime. It is in the child’s best interest to avoid being placed with an abusive parent.
  • Neglect: Neglect can include failing to take your child to the dentist or doctor, failing to take them to school, not purchasing appropriate clothing, not feeding the child properly, leaving them home alone and other similar behaviors. Children who are neglected are not in a safe environment.
  • Abandonment: If one parent has abandoned the child, such as by failing to have contact or provide support for extended periods of time, this will factor into a judge’s decision. Keep in mind that if a parent didn’t know the child existed, they cannot knowingly abandon their child.
  • Substance abuse: Substance abuse can be a factor in custody determinations, but there are some nuances here. For example, if a parent was an addict a decade before their child was born, but they’ve sought treatment and have been sober ever since, the courts will not look at them the same way as they would someone with current substance abuse problems.
  • Mental illness: Mental illness is treated similarly. If the parent in question has sought treatment and is stable, presenting no danger to the child, that’s different from someone who is suffering from unpredictable and unregulated illness.
  • Parental alienation: Finally, if one parent intentionally alienates their child from the other, that may be considered in a custody hearing.

Keep in mind that there must be evidence of these issues—the court will not go on one parent’s word alone. Evidence can include witness testimony, school and medical records, photographs, video recordings and more. Working with a child custody lawyer is crucial. A lawyer can help you present the most compelling evidence to support your case, whether you’re the parent accused of unfitness or you’re concerned about your child’s other parent.

When you need a child custody attorney, call K.J. Law P.A. We can help you negotiate in your child’s best interests.

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