What Does it Mean to Be an “Unfit Parent” in California?

Wed 13th December, 2023 Family Law

Every parent knows that there is no perfect parent. No matter how many times you get it right, you make the last-minute save, and you give the best advice there is to give: there will always be moments when a ball is dropped. Some milk is spilled. And we just have to chalk it up to being human and moving on, trying another day.

Most parents do try very hard to be good parents. And every person likely has a different idea in mind of what makes an imperfect parent cross over the line and become an “unfit parent.” But what kind of factors does the state of California actually look at when it makes the determination that a parent is “unfit”? mean when it defines the term “unfit parent,” and how might that definition play into a divorce proceeding? This article aims to answer some of these general questions. For expert advice on your precise circumstances, it is always best to consult with an experienced attorney.

Unfit Parent Consideration Factors

It is not uncommon for courts to be presented with the allegation that one of the parents involved in a divorce and custody action is actually an unfit parent. Because the parent is allegedly unfit, the accusing parents are seeking the court to limit the custody/visitation rights of the other parent. You, the court, and hopefully the child’s other parent all want the child’s best interests to be served at the end of the day. To help ensure that happens, the courts may consider a great number of factors to help determine if a child’s needs will be met while under a parent’s care. 

Some factors and questions you might expect the court to consider when determining whether a parent is “unfit” include:

  1. Is the parent/child relationship functional?

While no one is perfect, there are certain key items that a competent parent and caregiver must be able to provide for their child. These things include the capacity and ability to identify your child’s needs and appropriately respond to them. A fit parent will be able to identify and appropriately address behavioral changes that should signal concern, be able to effectively communicate with their child, etc.

The reason the above are so important is because it is important to provide a safe and stable environment for children. If the above items cannot be met in the child’s environment, it stands to reason that a child may come into harm’s way.

  1. Can the Parent Make Appropriate Decisions relating to the Child?

A fit parent will be able to set healthy boundaries and enforce age-appropriate restrictions for their kids in order to keep them safe.

Every individual parent will have a different idea of what is appropriate and what is not. However, at its core, the court – as a neutral third party – will consider whether the environment that the parent creates for the child will keep the child safe, with a priority placed on the child’s emotional and physical health.

  1. Are the Living Conditions Safe?

Is the parent able to provide stable housing for the child? Is the parent able to control who will have access to the home and who the child will come into contact with? All of these factors play a role in considering whether a child is sufficiently safe and protected in the home.

  1. Is there an Abusive History?

If a parent has a history of abuse, they should endeavor to understand that the court will heavily consider and scrutinize this history. Even a parent who is currently sober or left the abusive history in the past should expect that they will be required to provide substantial evidence of continuing good behavior if the court is to even consider awarding significant custody rights

Contact the Law Office of Bradley S. Sandler

Every divorce and custody case is different; ensure that you retain the experienced legal advice that you need. The Beverly Hills divorce attorney at the law office of Bradley S. Sandler can help you navigate through any unexpected turn your case may encounter. Contact our office today to discuss your case.