How to Prove a Parent is Unfit for Custody in Arizona
When parents are going through a custody hearing, they should keep in mind that the court has a duty to determine the best interests for the children involved in the case. When a couple divorces, the divorce may manifest in various forms of mistrust between the spouses and they may examine each other’s ability to safely and effectively raise their children.
If this is the case, the court may order a professional evaluator to handle an investigation to determine if joint custody between the parents is a good option, or perhaps sole custody to one parent would be the best option for the children.
Factors That Make a Parent “Unfit”
If the court assumes one parent as “unfit,” the other parent will likely get the custody. Here are some factors that a court may use to define a person’s fitness as a parent:
- A history of child abuse – This is the first thing that any court will look for. If there is a history of that it will not be in favor of the parent. Overcoming child abuse charges is extremely difficult. If a parent has any type of past child abuse record, the court will probably only allow occasional visitation rights (and even that is questionable).
- A history of substance abuse – If one of the parents has struggled with addiction in the past, they will need to prove long-term sobriety and reliability to get any type of custody. A history of relapses could lead a judge to believe that the parent is unreliable and that he or she may be a danger to his or her children.
- A history of domestic violence – A court evaluator will want to learn if a child has witnessed past abuse; the court will investigate all domestic violence claims in detail.
- The parent’s ability to make age-appropriate decisions for a child 0 The court will need to learn that a parent has enough common sense to make responsible decisions for a child for things such as friends, staying out of the house, curfew, religious and media consumption, and work.
- The parent’s ability to communicate with a child – The court will want to know that a parent has a working relationship with their child and that they can easily identify the child’s needs and changes in behavior.
- Psychiatric concerns – If a parent has an unpredictable or aggressive mental health disorder, the court may rule this as a risk to children. A court evaluator will seek proof of therapy, counseling, psychiatric prescriptions, and other aspects of the parent’s mental health care to rule if the parent is suitable to take custody.
- The living conditions of the parent – If one parent stays in the marital home and the other moves out, the court evaluator will need to evaluate the living situations of the children in both places.
- The child’s opinion – Although Arizona does not let the child choose, in some cases, the court will ask for the child’s opinion. This only applies to children older than the age of twelve, who can reasonably articulate their thoughts.
- The parent’s work schedule – If a parent spends a lot of time working out of the area, works long or odd hours may not be capable to give satisfactory supervision or spend enough time with a child. The court may want to see a readiness to relocate or change jobs to provide a more stable home life for the child.