How to Prove a Parent is Unfit in a Child Custody Case

hi it's Wendy Hernandez I'm the creator

of command the courtroom and I'm also a

family law attorney here in Phoenix

Arizona this past week one of my viewers

wrote in to me and asked me how she

might be able to prove that the other

parent in her custody case is an unfit

parent so I thought that would be a good

thing to talk about during this week's

video so if you're going through a

custody case and you're seeking sole

custody or sole decision-making over

your children one of the ways that you

might go about getting that is proving

that the other parent is unfit and it's

not that it's not always that easy to

prove the other parents is unfit but

there are a few different angles that

you can take and trying to convince the

judge that the other parent is unfit and

not in a position to have custody of the

children so I've been successful in my

own law practice in proving unfitness

when a parent has a significant

substance abuse issue so a substance

abuse issue can be significant if it's

an issue that's been continuing for a

good number of years and it goes away

and then it comes back and then it goes

away and it comes back and you're able

to show that the parent with the issue

just continues to relapse and they're

not able to be stable or solid for any

length a significant length of time but

another way even if there isn't a

long-standing drug abuse history that

you can show that a parent is unfit is

if they have a current substance abuse

issue whether it's an addiction to

alcohol or drugs and they could be

illegal drugs or they could be legal

prescription drugs if those drugs are

being abused in other words if the

parents not or the parents not following

the doctor's orders or if the parents

taking prescription drugs without a

prescription which does happen a lot so

in these cases where the parent is

struggling with the current issue even

if it hasn't been a lengthy historical

issue I would ask that that parent be

subjected or be required to take ongoing

drug tests and if the parent refuses to

take the drug test or they keep coming

back positive or they're missing tests

or they have

diluted samples they that may be an

indication that there is a problem that

needs to be fixed before they can be

trusted to have the children and make

decisions regarding the children another

thing that I might ask for when a parent

has a substance abuse issue is that that

parent be required to go through some

sort of substance abuse screening and

treatment program so what that means is

in many places there are programs where

the parent has to go and get interviewed

and get assessed to determine how

significant the drug issue is or the

alcohol issue is and based on that

assessment whoever the center is that's

making the assessment might make

recommendations for a relapse prevention

program for example or outpatient

therapy or something like that

so in addition to the drug testing I

might request a substance substance

abuse screening and/or treatment

protocol to be followed so that's one

way of going about trying to prove

unfitness another way might be is if a

parent is neglectful towards the

children they're not feeding the

children when they're supposed to be

feeding the children they are not making

sure the children get to school on time

they're not making sure that the

children do homework the children are

showing up to school tired or dirty or

without lunches or with bruises on them

and that goes to abuse that's not only

neglect but that's abuse so if you can

show that the parent has a pattern of

neglecting the children that might be

another way that you can go about

attacking their fitness as a parent so I

touched on abuse just briefly but if

there are abuse problems either in the

past or current abuse problems if there

are CPS reports from the past if there's

police reports if there's orders of

protection if there are criminal cases

that have happened in the past or

criminal convictions that have happened

in the past

that would show evidence that the parent

has been abusing the children or is

abusive or has an abusive personality I

would bring all of that up

in trying to establish that one parent

is unfit so those are just a few

examples of how I might show that now

one thing that you have to keep in mind

is just because a parent might have a

substance abuse issue doesn't

necessarily mean he or she is unfit or

just because a parent has a conviction

for spanking a child you know assaulting

a child in the past that doesn't

necessarily mean they're going to be

unfit right now right here the judge is

going to look at a lot of factors the

best interest factors that I talked a

lot about in these videos the judge will

look at all of these factors and take

them to get up together and consider

them together in trying to make a

decision about whether a parent is fit

or not fit so I wouldn't necessarily

hang my hat on one of these factors one

of the factors could be enough to do it

but not necessarily you know and I'll

tell you about a case that I had

probably fifteen years ago where I

represented father and there were two

little kids and the mother of the

children was addicted to methamphetamine

and it wasn't a long-standing addiction

she hadn't been addicted very long for

like a couple of years but she was so

addicted that she wasn't taking the drug

tests and you could tell that she was

joined meth because she was very thin

and when she did take drug tests they

were coming out positive for meth but

despite this the judge really wanted her

to play a role in the lives of her

children so the judge did give the

parties joint custody with my client

having the final say there was a dispute

about a major medical educational or

religious decision but what the judge

did do was limited that parents access

to the children he only gave her

supervised visits that way he could make

sure that the children were safe and

that they were not at risk when they

were in mother's care the only way that

she could see them was when my client

was around or when some other supervisor

was around so when you're seeking sole

decision-making keep in mind even if the

other parent is unfit

a judges may not a judge may not choose

to limit that person's custody but

instead may choose to make sure that the

children are safe by limiting that

parents parenting time so I hope this

information helped you as far as proving

unfitness and another parent there are

probably more than just the ways that I

mentioned this short video to prove and

fitness but those are a few of the most

common examples that I have used in my

own practice and that I see coming up in

the courtroom on a regular basis if you

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you then