How to Determine if a Parent is Unfit for Custody in Alabama

Custody disputes are, without a doubt, the hardest part of a divorce or split. Every parent wants to have time with their child and be a deciding factor in the big decisions of their child’s life. While no parent is perfect and every parent makes mistakes, in terms of deciding custody, there are specific factors a court will consider in deciding whether a parent is fit to have custody of their child. If the parent is deemed unfit, the court will limit, supervise, or prohibit any interaction between that parent and their child. It’s important to note that all custody decisions are made with one thing in mind: the child’s best interest. If custody is awarded to one parent over the other, that doesn’t automatically deem the other parent unfit. Rather, there are certain legal requirements that must be met to deem a parent unfit.

What is an “Unfit Parent”?

A parent is considered unfit when they fail to provide proper guidance, support, or care to their child. They can also be deemed unfit if there is a history of abuse, neglect, substance abuse issues, or mental illness that could endanger the child. There is a high bar to meet to prove that a parent is unfit. Alabama law and policy on the whole tries to allow children to maintain relationships with both of their parents whenever possible.

An unfit parent isn’t a parent that simply has a different parenting philosophy from the other parent. It is entirely normal for two parents to disagree on the best way to raise their child. Disagreements about food, clothes, schools, religion, extra-curriculars, and the like aren’t the kind of factors that are considered in determining whether or not a parent is fit.

Factors in Deciding Whether a Parent is Unfit

Judges consider many factors in determining whether a parent is fit to have custody of their child, and many are specific to each family’s circumstance. However, some overarching considerations include:

  • Substance abuse issues on the part of either parent.
  • A history of domestic violence, whether or not that was toward the child.
  • A history of child abuse.
  • Mental health issues and how well they can be managed with proper treatment.
  • How the parents communicate and resolve disputes.
  • If and how the parents keep each other appraised of information such as appointments, events, and social obligations.
  • Each parent’s involvement in the child’s life, including attendance at medical appointments, school functions.
  • Each parent’s history of caring for the child and level of involvement in childcare.
  • The child’s relationship with each parent.
  • Whether the parent has provided a stable, safe, and nurturing home for the child.
  • Whether the parent is setting age-appropriate limits for the child.
  • Whether the parent understands and responds to the child’s needs.

Cullman County Family Law Lawyer

A custody battle can be one of the most traumatic moments in a parent’s and child’s lives. With looming uncertainty, turn to a trusted family law firm to provide the certainty that you are doing all you can to keep your child safe and in your custody. Boasting over 55 years of combined experience practicing family law, the Hankey Law Firm is a team of zealous advocates who specialize in family law. Our mission is to provide client-centric family law services to the people of Cullman County, Blount County, Winston County, Madison County, Morgan County, and even further across the great state of Alabama. We put our clients and their families first, and will guide you through this difficult process with compassion while fighting relentlessly for you, your rights, and your family. Contact us today so we can tailor your representation to your individual needs goals.