How Does a Family Court Determine if a Parent is Unfit?

If you are in a custody battle in South Tampa, reach out to a skilled family law attorney for representation.

Parents have the responsibility of providing physical and emotional care for their children. While all parents are imperfect, most are able to do this without interference from the court. In a custody battle, however, one parent may allege that the other is “unfit” in an attempt to win sole custody or exterminate the other’s visitation rights. Here’s an overview of what you should know about parental unfitness in Florida and how a court will make a determination about custody and parental rights—

What Does it Mean if a Parent is “Unfit”?

When a parent is unfit, it means that the parent has been found by the court to be unable to provide the necessary level of care for their child, and therefore that it is in the child’s best interests to deny the parent certain parental rights. Parental rights that may be revoked if a parent is found to be unfit could include physical custody of the child, visitation rights with the child, and legal decision-making authority over the child. Note that to fully terminate a parent’s parental rights, one of 12 statutory grounds must be satisfied (Florida Statutes Section 39.806). Grounds for termination of parental rights include, but are not limited to, abandonment of the child, the willing surrender of the parents of their parental rights, parental incarceration, the parent(s) engaged in egregious conduct that threatened the life or safety of the child, and more. Please talk to an attorney if you have questions about the termination of parental rights.

Factors to Determine Parental Unfitness in Florida

As found in Florida Statutes Section 751.05, in order to deem a parent “unfit,” the court must find that the parent has abused, abandoned, or neglected the child. Examples of this might include evidence that a parent has failed to provide food, clothing, or shelter for a child; evidence of physical injuries to the child caused by the parent’s physical abuse; evidence of a parent struggling with substance abuse; or evidence of psychological injury to a child due to emotional/psychological abuse. In order to prove abuse, abandonment, or neglect, the parent alleging this will need to submit evidence to the court.

If one parent is found to be unfit, then temporary custody may be granted to the other parent or another family member, depending on the child’s best interests.

Get Help From a Skilled South Tampa Family Law Attorney Today

A court will not find that a parent is unfit without compelling evidence; typically, a court presumes that it is in a child’s best interests to maintain a relationship with both parents, and it will not deviate from this presumption unless there is strong reason to do so. At the Law Offices of Mark G. Rodriguez, P.A., our experienced South Tampa family law attorney can help you to seek custody of your child, prove parental unfitness, or defend yourself against allegations of parental unfitness. Reach out to our lawyer today to learn more.