Florida Custody Issues: Addressing The Unfit Parent
When you told your spouse that you wanted a divorce, the first thing they said was that they would fight tooth and nail for custody of your child. You are horrified at the thought of even sharing custody, let alone losing custody altogether. You don’t believe your spouse is a good parent—that’s part of the reason the marriage is ending in the first place. What are your options moving forward?
The Court’s Perspective
At the onset, the court prefers that parents share custody, because, in most cases, children benefit from sustained interaction with both parents. When that isn’t the case, however, it will consider awarding sole custody to one parent. It will be up to you, however, to provide a truthful and convincing case through a custody evaluation that joint custody would be injurious to your child.
What Does That Mean?
What we’re talking about here goes beyond your spouse’s penchant to allow soda and sweet treats after dinner. Just because the other parent doesn’t share all of your concerns and values related to parenting, it doesn’t mean they are a bad parent. The court is more interested in significant and detrimental factors that would be indicators of a parent’s fitness, such as:
- A history of domestic violence;
- Substance abuse and/or addictive behaviors that endanger the child;
- Previous abandonment or neglect of the child;
- Documented mental illness that precludes one from properly caring for a child;
- A parent’s desire and ability to provide a clean, safe environment for the child;
- Any other factors that would impact the child’s health and safety.
The court will order a custody evaluation to make a determination as to the best interests of the child. Having an impartial third-party mental health professional investigate claims of parental unfitness is necessary in order to achieve a fair and positive result that will benefit the child in question. The investigation will include parental interviews, observations of parent-child interactions, and discussions with other relevant parties such as physicians, teachers, extended family, neighbors, etc.In some cases, psychological testing will be warranted. Depending on the age of the child, their input will be gathered, as well. The process takes several weeks as a rule, and ultimately the evaluator will present a report to the court with recommendations as to custody, visitation, and time-sharing. There may be suggestions for particular interventions such as parenting classes, therapies, and treatment. Ultimately, whatever is recommended by the evaluator is likely to be respected and accepted by the court.
Getting it Right
At WiseLieberman, our Boca Raton child custody lawyers recognize the seriousness of situations like this, and will assist you in preparing for and contributing to an evaluation. We are committed to achieving the best possible results for you and your child. To schedule a confidential consultation, contact our office today.