What Happens When One Parent Is Unfit to Share Custody?

Every aspect of divorce in Arizona (as everywhere else) is complicated by emotions; the more adversarial the couple is, the more complicated the process becomes, especially if there are children involved. If one parent accuses the other of being unfit, the stakes go up precipitously, since one parent’s right to have a full relationship with his or her child is threatened as is, potentially, the child’s health and well-being.

It is crucial that any questions surrounding the issue of parental fitness be answered correctly since the ultimate decision will not only have lifelong consequences for both parent and child but may, in some cases, be a question of life and death. This is why it is absolutely essential, whichever side of the case you are on, that you consult with an experienced child custody attorney. In Arizona, there is no one better equipped to handle your case than Mitchell E. Cohen of Cohen Family Law.

Parental Alienation vs Child Endangerment

Both sides of the unfit parent argument play out with disturbing frequency in the media, among celebrities and the general population. False claims of unfit parenting are frequently used to try to influence custody and visitation decisions, as well as to muddy reputations, during divorce proceedings. Tragically, however, parental neglect, abuse, addiction, mental illness, illegal and immoral behavior are far from uncommon in the real world, so ferreting out the true facts of the case can be as difficult as they are critical.

How a Child Custody Evaluation Works in Arizona

Whether you are desperately trying to protect your child from spending time in an uncomfortable or unsafe environment, or are being unfairly accused of being unfit, having a strong legal presence on your side is a necessary first step. Having a professional in charge can make all the difference in preparing for and interpreting a child custody evaluation.

Once a parent’s fitness is questioned, the court will evaluate the following, some of which overlap:

  • Parental involvement — Time spent and responsibilities taken to care for the child (preparing food, taking to daycare, attending school functions, tucking into bed)
  • Child safety — Making sure the child is safely belted into a car seat, not exposing the child to inappropriate adult behavior, making sure has medical check-ups
  • Child’s reaction to the parent — Does the child appear frightened or nervous in the parent’s presence?
  • Parent’s response to the other parent — Does the allegedly unfit parent bully or dismiss the former partner?
  • Are age-appropriate limits set by the parent? Does the teenager have a curfew? Is he or she permitted to drink alcohol? Does the toddler have a bedtime? Does she or he go unobserved for long periods of time?
  • Is the parent functional socially? — Does the parent behave abnormally with neighbors? teachers? storekeepers? Is the parent angry much of the time? Does the parent not respond to the child’s questions? Does the parent prevent the child from socializing with friends?
  • Mental capacity and stability — Is the parent damaged cognitively or psychiatrically to the point that the child is unsafe? For example, does the parent have terrible episodes of PTSD or hallucinations? Does the parent hoard to the point that the home is dangerous for a toddler to navigate? 
  • Substance abuse If the parent has a history of abusing drugs or alcohol but is successfully being treated, this may not disqualify her or him as a fit parent. If the substance abuse is ongoing, however, the parent may be limited to having supervised visits with his or her child.
  • Domestic violence — Any evidence of physical or sexual abuse of anyone in the household is taken very seriously by the courts. If the child has witnessed the abuse, there will likely be only supervised visits.
  • Child abuse or neglect — If the child has been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused by the parent, or there is evidence of neglect, the parent will almost certainly be denied custody and possibly denied even supervised visits. 

Nonetheless, Accusations Are Never Enough 

Clearly, in order to have the courts declare a parent unfit to care for his or her own child, there will has to be irrefutable evidence. Mitchell E. Cohen will assist you in directing custody evaluators to materials and witnesses to verify your accusations, such as:

  • Medical reports of evidence of abuse
  • Witness reports by teachers, coaches, clergy, neighbors
  • Police reports of allegations or arrests of the other parent
  • Drug test results
  • Records of involuntary hospitalizations
  • Pertinent records from the Department of Social Services

At Cohen Family Law, we put your child’s safety above all else and will fight vigorously to prove your case if your ex-partner is unfit to parent the child you love.

But what if you have been falsely accused of being an unfit parent? 

Mitchell E. Cohen is fully committed to acting in the best interests of your child. If you have been accused of being an unfit parent because your ex wants to separate you from your child or simply to punish you, Mitchell will fight aggressively to ensure that does not happen.

At Cohen Family Law, we have the power of extensive legal knowledge and outstanding skills to defend you from false accusations. We are savvy to all the tricks opposing attorneys may use to try to destroy your reputation and upend your life and we know how best to confront them.

Parental Alienation Can Be Documented, Too

The court and the public are also familiar with the tactics used to smear a parent during a hostile divorce and we will make sure no one is fooled by their shenanigans. Just as we are capable of fighting to prove a parent unfit, we are equally competent to prove that accusations made by an antagonistic ex-partner are untrue. We will work hard to show that your ex has a history of

  • Frequently criticizing you in front of your child
  • Making false statements against you to friends, family, therapists, or even police
  • Making your child feel that she has to take sides in the divorce
  • Interfering with child visitation appointments so the child is repeatedly disappointed
  • Not telling the child that you have called; not giving him a gift you have sent
  • Not notifying you about school meetings, athletic events, plays, or awards ceremonies
  • Failing to share information about your child’s health with you

We have as many tactics to disprove poor parenting as we have to prove it. We view false accusations as a serious threat to you and your child and will do everything in our power to confront them head on with:

  • Testimony from relatives, friends, teachers, therapists, doctors, parents of your child’s friends, and neighbors that you have a good relationship with your child
  • Proof that you spend time playing with your child, helping with homework, cooking and eating, driving the carpool, teaching sports or games, watching movies, reading books
  • Statements from the child that align with your positive view of the relationship

Whichever side of the Unfit Parent Case You’re On, Cohen Family Law Is on Your Side