Being a single parent is difficult. There are obvious challenges with scheduling, spending time with the kids, supporting the home, and so on. When you are co-parenting, there are other concerns as well. You may be uncomfortable leaving the kids alone with their other parent.
Some parents who share custody can stay unified with their decisions and child-rearing philosophy. Others disagree on virtually every aspect of raising their kids, creating tension and conflict with their parenting plan. Then there are times when a child is genuinely unsafe with one of the parents.
If a child is in legitimate danger when left alone with their mother or father, you must take action. Here are some tips for determining whether your child’s co-parent is unfit.
Evaluate the Severity of the Situation
You may feel strongly about any number of parenting decisions. Perhaps you have deep convictions about the movies, tv, and music your kids consume. Maybe you take a strong stance on their diet and daily exercise. These concerns are valid, and it’s incredibly frustrating when your co-parent doesn’t follow the same rules and restrictions you do.
This situation, however, rarely has a legal solution. You may strongly disagree with your co-parent allowing the kids to watch violent horror movies. Taking this matter to court, however, isn’t likely to get you very far. Generally, the court assumes that whoever has direct possession of the children is the acting parent. If your ex thinks it’s okay for the kids to consume this material, the law probably won’t step in to stop them.
Before challenging your ex’s parental rights, take an honest look at the immediate safety of the children. Are they staying fed, clothed, clean, and happy when they are with their other parent? If so, the law doesn’t want to interfere or remove them from a relationship that benefits them.
Resolving the Situation
You can always revisit your parenting plan and include new stipulations or remove old agreements that are no longer relevant. If you, for instance, include a rule that the kids should not watch R-rated movies, that becomes a legal requirement. When the other parent breaks this rule, they could suffer penalties.
Ask your attorney about options for renegotiating your plan. Mediation, for instance, is a good option for parents who have good intentions but cannot agree on the details.
Recognize Real Safety Concerns
Pay attention to your kids when they return from their other parent. If they seem miserable or shut down, there might be a problem.
There are other, more obvious signs to look for, too. If they seem to regularly come home hungry, bruised, dirty, and so on, these are giant red flags.
Talk to your kids. If they stay quiet about their experiences, get help from a mental health professional. Your child’s school probably has a psychologist on staff that you can consult. If not, they should have resources they can provide, pointing you in the right direction.
A truly unfit parent is a danger to their children. They are abusive and neglectful. They may have substance abuse problems. Removing their parental rights is in the child’s best interests.
Resolving the Situation
If your child’s co-parent is unfit, you must plead to the courts. Essentially, you and your attorney must build a case against the other parent. You must present evidence of abusive, dangerous behavior. This may involve documentation, witnesses, physical evidence, and so on.
The abusive parent could lose their visitation rights or undergo supervised visitation. The court may create a plan to help them correct their behavior. If they follow the plan, they could regain their rights.
Completely removing a parent’s rights is difficult, but it can be done. This action is normally reserved for extreme cases where the child is in immediate danger, and the adult shows little promise of recovery. Your attorney can help move this process along when necessary.
Our firm is ready to listen to your concerns about your child’s other parent. For a free consultation, call us right away at (270) 977-8910. You can also schedule time with us online.