You can prove that a parent is unfit and therefore incapable of acting in the best interests of the child by doing the following:
- Make notes of the parent’s objectionable or inappropriate behavior.
- Check the living conditions and the home environment of the child.
- Gather evidence.
- Talk to witnesses.
- Petition the courts or complain to the state authorities.
- Serve papers.
- Attend the trial.
An unfit parent may be denied physical and legal custody and even his/her visitation time may be supervised. In extreme cases, he/she may even be denied visitation rights, though that happens only in rare cases.
Here is a checklist that guides you step by step on how to prove the other parent is unfit:
1. Make Notes Of The Parent’s Objectionable Or Inappropriate Behavior
- Maintain a journal if you suspect that the other parent’s behavior may harm the child. Observe the other parent’s behavior and make notes.
- Jot down the dates when the other parent performed acts that placed the child in harm’s way.
- Take videos and pictures of the other parent’s behavior.
- If the other parent repeats acts that put the child in dangerous situations, then it is a clear indication that he may be unfit for custody. Some examples of objectionable behavior include:
- Becoming violent in the presence of the child
- Abusing substances in the presence of the child
- Abusing substances outside the home and behaving inappropriately in the presence of the child
- Physically or emotionally abusing the child
- Harshly disciplining the child
2. Check The Child’s Environment
- Does the other parent supervise the child or is the child left on his/her own?
- If the parent does not supervise the child, then does he/she hire professional child care services to help out?
- In case the parent supervises the child, then is that supervision enough or excessive?
- Are the child’s basic needs (adequate food, clothing, education, and comfortable space at home) fulfilled?
- Does the parent expose the child to undesirable people like people with a criminal record, substance abusers, etc.?
- Does the parent expose the child to guns, alcohol, chemicals, and other inappropriate things?
3. Gather Evidence
- The notes that you have made in the journal
- Photos or videos that you may have shot of the other parent’s negligence or excessiveness
- Medical bills and reports of the child, if he/she needed any medical help because of the other parent’s behavior
- Additional records that prove the other parent’s misbehavior (emails, phone chats, voicemail, social media messages/posts)
4. Talk To Witnesses
- The other parent may have interacted with people while taking care of the child. Someone may have noticed the other parent’s misbehavior or negligence. So, it makes sense to chat up with witnesses and find out what they know about how the other parent supervises the child.
- If you gather any important information, ask the witness if he/she would testify in the courts.
5. Petition The Courts or Complain To The State Authorities
- If there has been abuse or neglect, call the Department of Child Protective Services in your state, hand over the evidence, and request the department to investigate.
- Provide all the evidence to your child custody attorney and ask him/her to file a petition for custody (if you are a parent). If you are not the parent, ask your attorney to file a guardianship petition.
6. Serve Papers
- Once the courts have been petitioned, you need to serve the notice to the other parent. Your custody attorney can help you hire a professional process server.
- After serving the papers, get your attorney to file a “proof of service” with the courts.
7. Attend The Trial
- Attend the hearing along with your custody attorney.
- Have your attorney present the facts and the evidence (make copies of all the evidence before the hearing). Stick to the facts and be truthful in the courts.
- Coordinate with the witnesses to obtain their testimony.
Your attorney has to convince the courts that the other parent is unfit for custody and that it would be in the child’s best interests if he/she were in your custody. Therefore, along with all the evidence against the other parent, you must also provide evidence to the courts that you can supply the child with basic needs and comforts in a safe, secure, and financially stable environment.