How to Prove that a Parent Is Unfit to Share Custody

By Michael DiFalco

Your child custody arrangement can have a significant impact on your child’s life. Ideally, both parents share custody of their child. Joint custody is typically most beneficial for the child where two parents are able to work together and raise the child even though their relationship is over. However, this is unrealistic, impractical and even dangerous in some cases where one parent is unfit or unable to share custody.

New York understands the importance of a child having a relationship with both parents; therefore, courts do not take decisions regarding unfit parents lightly. Nonetheless, if a parent is truly unfit, it is often in the child’s best interests to limit that parent’s rights and access to the child.

For custody matters involving unfit parents, a New York child custody attorney can assist.

What is an unfit parent?

Generally, a parent is unfit or incapable of being an equal joint custodial parent when they cannot provide the love, care, and support their child needs. Some common reasons that a parent might be found unfit include:

  • Extreme anger and animosity towards the other parent
  • Child abuse
  • Child neglect
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Certain mental or physical health conditions
  • Domestic violence

How to Prove a Parent Is Unfit

If you wish to prove a parent is unfit to get custody, you will need to provide the court with substantial evidence, including any of the following:

  • Emails, texts, or voice messages
  • The child’s medical records
  • Criminal convictions
  • History of domestic violence
  • History of substance abuse
  • History of child abuse
  • Police reports
  • Photos or videos

In many cases, the judge will order a child custody evaluation by a mental health professional when these types of serious issues are presented. During a child custody evaluation, the evaluator will conduct a thorough investigation to give recommendations for child custody arrangements. The child custody evaluator will:

  • Interview both parents
  • Interview the child away from the parents
  • Interview other relevant parties, including therapists or teachers
  • Conduct psychological testing
  • Review details of the court case
  • Review medical records and other documentation
  • Make recommendations or suggestions for the court to consider

At the conclusion of their investigation, the child custody evaluator will issue a report detailing the information they gathered and their recommendations to the court if appropriate. 

Can an unfit parent get visitation?

Most parents will receive visitation rights. But the visitation may need to be adjusted or limited based on what is appropriate under the circumstances. 

In some cases, an unfit parent will have supervised visitation, especially at the initial stages of a custody case. When a parent has supervised visitation, they are not allowed to interact with their child alone. Supervised visitation can occur under the supervision of a relative or social worker at an agreed-upon location, such as a relative’s home, a park, or a visitation center. Sometimes visitation is contingent on drug or alcohol testing or treatment. 

Can an unfit parent ever get full custody?

It is unlikely that a parent demonstrating serious mental health, drug/alcohol issues, domestic violence histories or severe alienation will obtain full custody. They will still have rights to seek visitation with the child and be involved in the child’s life, but their access must be curtailed to protect the safety and welfare of the child. 

Consult with a New York Child Custody Attorney

Child custody matters are serious and affect your child’s life and well-being. A New York child custody lawyer can help you seek a suitable custody arrangement. 

Aiello & DiFalco is solely dedicated to family law matters, proudly serving Garden City, NY, and the surrounding area. We strive to provide top-quality legal services, tailoring our approach to every individual case. Our attorneys have the skills, resources, and experience to help our clients pursue the best possible outcome. 

Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our child custody attorneys.

About the Author
I am a partner at Aiello & DiFalco LLP, and my priority for my clients is to guide them through an arduous court case to provide them with the opportunity to write the next chapter in their life. I tailor my approach to each client’s priorities and positions, and to the extent that matters can be predicted, I will always provide a realistic perspective of how the law could be applied to the particular facts and circumstances of a case. Since I thrive on helping people and solving problems, I bring an optimistic and positive approach to practicing in a very difficult area of law. With more than a decade of experience handling hundreds of cases, I have the ability to get results on the issues my clients view as priorities. When cases or certain issues cannot be settled, I have a solid record of success at trials, hearings, and on appeals. Feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation, I am always available to help.