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How To Prove That Your Ex-Spouse is an Unfit Parent in a Florida Child Custody Case
Child custody is one of the most contentious issues in an Orlando divorce case. Each parent typically believes they know what is in their child’s best interest. But unfortunately, some parents are not fit to care for their children.
There are ways to protect your child from an unfit parent. Florida courts can remove a child from an unfit parent’s care and grant sole custody to the child’s other parent.
Steps for Proving That Your Ex-Spouse is an Unfit Parent
Proving that your ex-spouse is an unfit parent in a Florida child custody case can be challenging. Your spouse will likely accuse you of fabricating the allegations for revenge or trying to gain the upper hand in divorce settlement negotiations. Therefore, you want to be prepared for the battle ahead by seeking legal advice from an experienced Orlando child custody lawyer.
Things to keep in mind before petitioning the court for child custody based on allegations of a parent being unfit are:
The Allegations Must Be True
Even though it might be tempting, do not unjustly or falsely accuse your ex-partner of being an unfit parent. The situation could backfire on you. If the court discovers you made up the allegations of unfitness, you could lose custody because you are seen as an unfit parent.
Collect Evidence of a Parent’s Unfitness
Allegations of being an unfit parent are serious. You have the burden of proving that the allegations are true. Therefore, you need compelling evidence to convince a judge to grant you sole custody of your child.
Admissible evidence proving a parent is unfit could include, but is not limited to:
- Medical, counseling, therapy, and school records
- Testimony from teachers, coaches, family, friends, therapists, and other parties familiar with the situation
- Videos and photographs
- Police reports
- A court-ordered psychological examination
- Testimony from expert witnesses, including medical experts, psychologists, and child custody evaluators
- Details of home visits
- Evidence of parental alienation
Judges consider any evidence they deem relevant to determining the child’s best interests. Therefore, any evidence that supports your allegations could be introduced in court.
Understand What It Means To Be an Unfit Parent
You might disagree with your co-parent’s parenting style. However, disagreements over parenting styles are not necessarily evidence of a parent being unfit.
Florida Statute §751.05 states the court must find by clear and convincing evidence that the parent abused, abandoned, or neglected the child to find a parent unfit. Clear and convincing evidence means the court finds that the evidence is substantially and highly more likely to be true than untrue.
Filing a Petition To Declare a Parent Unfit in Orlando
Your Orlando child custody lawyer will file a petition with the court seeking custody based on fitness. The court will schedule a hearing. You and your child’s other parent can present evidence and testimony to convince the judge of fitness or unfitness.
Factors that could lead to a ruling of unfitness include, but are not limited to, evidence that a parent:
- Engaged in parental alienation
- Physically, emotionally, or sexually abused the child
- Abandoned the child
- Neglected the child, including failing to provide a safe home, adequate food, and appropriate clothing
- Placed the child in dangerous situations or exposed the child to things that could harm them
- Has a mental illness that prevents the parent from caring for the child
- Failed to ensure the child attends school
- Is guilty of engaging in acts of domestic violence
- Abuses drugs and/or alcohol
After hearing testimony and reviewing evidence, the judge will decide whether a parent is fit to have custody and/or visitation. The judge could grant sole physical and legal custody to one parent. Depending on the circumstances, the judge could order supervised visitation for the unfit parent or refuse visitation pending further review.
What Should I Do If I Believe My Child’s Other Parent is Unfit?
If your child is in immediate danger of harm, call the police. Otherwise, talk with an Orlando child custody attorney as soon as possible. Also, begin gathering information and documentation to support your allegations.
Alleging your child’s other parent is unfit is a serious matter. It should not be undertaken lightly, nor should you try to navigate the process without experienced legal counsel.
When parents make false allegations during a child custody case, the child suffers the most. Working with a custody lawyer could help you resolve custody issues without prolonged, bitter litigation.
However, if your ex-spouse refuses to settle custody disputes reasonably, it helps to have a lawyer working with you. An experienced lawyer can help you fight to protect your child from an unfit parent.
Contact Our Child Custody Law Firm in Orlando, FL
Contact the experienced Orlando child custody lawyers at McMichen, Cinami & Demps today for legal assistance. Contact our Orlando, FL office at (407) 898-2161 to schedule a free consultation.
McMichen, Cinami & Demps – Orlando Office
1500 E Concord St
Orlando, FL 32803