What Does it Mean to be Deemed an “Unfit” Parent?

The courts in Texas award child custody to parents who have the best interests of the child in mind. So, what exactly does it mean to be an unfit parent?

When a couple decides to get a divorce, one of the things that they will likely disagree on is child custody. Typically, both parents will want to get custody of the child, and for the most part, judges prefer to award joint custody. This is because children tend to do better when both parents are involved in their lives.

However, there are situations where sole custody may be the best option. In some cases, neither parent is capable of providing the child with a safe and loving environment. Therefore, a third party, such as a grandparent or other family member, may need to be awarded custody of the child.

Judges make custody decisions based on the best interests of the child. There are more than a dozen factors that go into this decision. They include the mental and physical health of the parents, religious and cultural considerations, the ability for the child to stay in their school and community, the child’s age and gender, the child’s wishes and any special needs the child has.

What the Law Says

Under Texas Family Code § 153.131, a parent having custody would not be in the best interest of the child if allowing it would “significantly impair the child’s physical health or emotional development.” The biggest factor here is domestic violence. If a parent has been accused of being physically violent with a child, then they would be deemed unfit and therefore would not be awarded custody.

Any other type of abuse, such as sexual abuse, or neglect will also bar a parent from being awarded custody of their child. Drug or alcohol abuse by a parent would also be grounds to deny custody and deem the parent unfit. These substances can intoxicate the parent and put the child in unsafe situations. A parent could drink and drive with their child in the car or make other poor parenting decisions due to a lack of judgment.

The judge will review the testimony and evidence from the other parent and witnesses, as well as school, medical and criminal records. The court will then determine if a parent may be deemed unfit based on harmful factors in the parent-child relationship. The goal of the court is to ensure the safety and well-being of the child.

Contact an Austin, TX Child Custody Lawyer Today

Child custody cases can be complicated and contentious, especially when one or both parents are accused of being unfit parents. It is important to have the child’s best interests in mind. If you believe the other parent should be denied custody or you are accused of being an unfit parent, seek legal help right away.

As a parent, it is important to understand your legal rights when it comes to spending time with your child. The Austin, TX child custody lawyers at Scott M. Brown & Associates can advocate for you and help you fight for custody. Schedule a consultation today. Call our office at (281) 612-7994 or fill out the online form.

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