No perfect parent exists, but each one strives to be the kind their child needs. Especially in divorcing families, New Jersey courts recognize the significance of having both parents frequently and continuously present in their child’s life.
However, as the state’s courts place the child’s well-being above anything else, they may deem a parent exhibiting behaviors, lifestyles or conditions potentially harmful to the child as unfit to share physical and legal custody with the other parent.
What makes for an unfit parent?
There is no precise formula measuring a parent’s fitness, or capacity and willingness to take part in raising their child. But a judge often looks at the following indicators to determine if a parent is unfit:
- Mental illness
- Intentional disregard, neglect or abandonment
- History of substance abuse, whether drugs or alcohol
- Allegations or prior records of domestic violence, or any sexual misconduct or aggressive action
Subject to the nature and severity of the crime, a parent with criminal involvement may lead their child to danger. Therefore, although the judge leans toward building a stable environment for the child, their safety takes precedence. Ultimately, upon careful consideration of relevant facets – physical, mental, emotional, financial and moral – the other fit parent may receive sole custody.
In unfortunate cases where the court declares both parents as unfit, the child may be under the care of their grandparent, an immediate family member or a foster facility.
Preparing a fit future for a child
Being a child of divorced parents is devastating enough. But to have an unfit parent incapable of providing a loving home may have a damaging impact on a child’s welfare. A presumably fit parent determined to establish their spouse’s lack of fitness must have a legal representative help them gather evidence to support their claim. This way, they protect their rights and their child’s future.