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How the court determines if a parent is unfit

While the courts favor joint custody more often these days, there are still times when sole custody may be the better option. The courts want to make sure that the best interests of the child remain at the forefront of child custody arrangements, so if that means that the other parent should have limited and/or supervised access to the children, that may be the decision.

If you find yourself in a situation where you believe the children would be better off with you having sole custody, you will need to show the court why. You will more than likely need to show that your child's other parent is unfit.

The factors the court looks for

Every family is unique, so every child custody case is as well. For this reason, there is no one definition for what constitutes an "unfit" parent. Even so, some commonalities do exist regarding the factors that courts here in Utah and across the country look at, such as those below:

  • Substantiated claims of child abuse, neglect or cruelty
  • Disinterest in the welfare of the child
  • Little to no interest in a relationship with the child
  • Abandoning the child
  • Failure to provide proper guidance, support and care for the child
  • Addiction to alcohol or drugs

These are just some of the factors a judge will take into consideration when you request sole custody due to the fact that the other parent is unfit. The other parent can challenge your assertions, but the overriding dictate of the court is to ensure the emotional, physical and financial stability of the child. The rights of the child overshadow the rights of a parent. If found unfit, the court may deny the other parent visitation, only allow limited and/or supervised visitation, or terminate his or her parental rights.

Where to turn for help

For your child's sake, you may not want to have the court declare the other parent unfit, but your first priority is to protect your children from harm and heartbreak. Their happiness and safety are paramount to you, but you will need to convince the court that this decision will protect the best interests of your child. You will need to provide the court with the appropriate evidence, and knowing what that is may take some research and time. Fortunately, you don't have to embark on this endeavor alone. You can make use of all available legal resources at your disposal.

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