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Who is Considered an Unfit Parent?

Who is Considered an Unfit Parent?

18 / February 2023

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Who is Considered an Unfit Parent?

It is common for parties to make accusations and allegations of misconduct during a divorce or family law case, but there are some situations where there are serious concerns about parental fitness. This issue arises in connection with Michigan child custody, which state law terms allocation of parental responsibilities. The general preference is for parents to share in decision-making, though such an arrangement may not be appropriate when a parent is unfit. To make these determinations, courts are required to review the Michigan statute on the best interests of the child.

If a parent is found unfit, there are significant consequences for the parent-child relationship and their ability to participate in the child’s life. Still, protecting the safety and well-being of the child is paramount. Whether you are seeking a court’s decision on fitness or defending these allegations, retaining a Clinton Township child custody attorney must be a top priority. It is also helpful to review some important information about finding a parent unfit.

Overview of the Child’s Best Interests Factors

Because the issue of parental fitness is fundamental to child custody, Michigan law requires the judge to assess an itemized list of factors contained in the statute. They include:

  • The mental and physical health of each parent and the child;
  • Instances of domestic violence, including those directed at the child or which the child observed;
  • A parent’s moral fitness, which could be related to alcohol use or drug use;
  • Each parent’s willingness to foster and support a close relationship between the child and other parent;
  • The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community;
  • The parent’s ability to provide the child with food, clothing, and medical care;
  • The love, affection, and other emotional ties between the child and parents; and,
  • Any other factor the court finds relevant to determining the child’s best interests.

Raising Parental Fitness Issues in Court

Only a judge can make a decision on whether a parent is unfit for purposes of child custody. Your right to participate in decision-making and parenting time cannot be affected without court involvement, and you cannot unilaterally change custody without an order from a judge. There are two contexts in which it is appropriate to raise the issue of parental fitness:

  • When a court is making an initial determination on child custody, either in a divorce or paternity case; or,
  • If a parent wants to modify the existing court order on child custody, in which case an official request must be made to the judge via petition.

For these proceedings, it is critical to have solid evidence related to each factor included in the child’s best interests statute. 

Call Now to Speak to a Clinton Township Child Custody Lawyer

Disputes over whether a parent is unfit are both complicated and emotionally charged, so you will need experienced legal counsel to guide you. For information on how our team can help, please contact Iafrate & Salassa, P.C. in Clinton Township, MI. We can schedule a no-cost consultation with a Michigan child custody attorney who will explain the laws.

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