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Divorced parents with their son visiting lawyer

How Do the Courts Decide Whether a Parent Is Unfit for Custody? 

E.N. Banks-Ware Law Firm LLC May 2, 2023

Let’s face it. Parenting is hard, even under the best circumstances. However, families can face even more difficulties when going through a divorce or separation. When a family is forced to divide the time that they’ll see their children, there can be major disagreements. In some cases, the couple will have to turn to the courts to make a determination, especially if one parent believes the other is “unfit” to have custody.  

But how do the courts decide whether a parent is unfit? And who gets to decide whether a parent is unfit? If you’d like help addressing these questions, call the E.N. Banks-Ware Law Firm LLC to speak with an experienced child custody lawyer. Attorney Banks-Ware works out of Lithonia, Georgia, and can serve those in Decatur, Conyers, Covington, McDonough, and Lawrenceville. 

Determining Custody & the Child’s Best Interests

Whenever a family needs to turn to the courts for help determining child custody in Georgia, the judge will look at several factors, but the overarching consideration is always the best interests of the child. The courts also recognize that a child does best when they continue to have regular and meaningful contact with both parents, and will always try to come up with a plan that includes each parent. However, if one parent is deemed unfit for custody, their parenting privileges can be severely restricted. 

What Qualifies as an Unfit Parent? 

A parent may be deemed unfit if they’re found to be incapable of caring for their child. Since this is a rather subjective definition, each case is handled on an individual basis. Some actions that may qualify someone as an unfit parent would be abandoning a child, abusing or neglecting a child, failing to provide for the basic needs of a child, having a severe substance abuse problem or mental illness, or subjecting the child to “immoral, obscene, or indecent influences.” 

Who Determines if a Parent Is Unfit?

A judge will be the one who makes the final decision on the fitness of a parent, but they will examine all available evidence first and listen to testimony given by each parent first. Oftentimes a child custody evaluation will be performed especially if one parent petitions the court to remove the other from the custody agreement.  

Proving a Parent Is Unfit

Proving a parent is unfit to care for their child is a complex task and one that’s taken very seriously by the courts. Remember, whenever possible the courts will strive to include both parents in the child’s life, unless there are serious concerns for their safety or well-being. If you are petitioning the court to remove the custody rights of your co-parent, you’ll need to provide as much evidence and documentation of their unfit behaviors as possible. It can be extremely helpful to work with a family law attorney during this process to ensure your petition is complete and handled efficiently.  

Getting Custody Back After Being Ruled Unfit

If you’re interested in regaining custody after being classified as an unfit parent, the best thing you can do is contact a family law attorney. This can be a difficult process, but not an impossible one. You will need to directly address the issues that first deemed you unfit to parent. You then must demonstrate that you’ve taken steps to better yourself or your situation and prove to the judge that you can provide a stable and safe environment for your child.  

Work With an Experienced Attorney

If you’re in the Lithonia, Georgia, region and have concerns over a child custody arrangement—either that you feel your co-parent is unfit or you’re trying to regain your custody rights—reach out to the E.N. Banks-Ware Law Firm LLC to schedule a consultation.