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What deems a parent unfit in Missouri?

What deems a parent unfit in Missouri?What does it mean to be an unfit parent? Missouri’s definition of an unfit parent or guardian is essentially the same as that of other states across the country. In general, an unfit parent or guardian in Missouri is one whose actions endanger a child or cause emotional or psychological harm. Examples of this are mentally ill or drug-addicted parents or guardians. 

However, there is no such thing as a perfect parent. As such, having a few parenting flaws is unlikely to influence a child custody decision. On the other hand, being an unfit parent might affect the outcome of a child custody dispute.

Parents may not agree on custody matters during a divorce, or one parent may not trust the other with the child/children. A child custody evaluation may be conducted at the request of a parent or on a judge’s directive. The goal is to see if granting one or both parents custody is in the child’s best interest or if the child’s health, safety, or welfare are jeopardized. 

What makes a parent unfit?

In the most basic terms, an unfit parent is a parent or adult who has proven by their persistent actions that they are without a doubt incapable of providing and delivering the necessary care, support, and supervision to the child or children involved in the custody award process. 

If found unfit, the parent at issue may have their visiting rights restricted or lose their parental rights entirely.

How does the court determine if a parent or guardian is unfit?

Because every custody case is distinct from each other, the factors that a court will consider when one party is looking to get custody of a child and in determining whether a parent or guardian is unfit differ from case to case. 

To make the right decision, the judge will consider the following parental characteristics and behavior:

  • If a parent or guardian has a history of substance abuse, the judge is likely to be unsympathetic. However, if the parent has demonstrated a willingness to stop using drugs by enrolling in a rehabilitation center or self-help group for addicts, the court is likely to be more lenient.
  • Allowing the child/children to see (or become a victim of) domestic abuse. A judge or jury might find a parent guilty based on the tiniest proof of domestic abuse. For example:
  • A parent’s refusal to provide for a child’s basic requirements for food, housing, and a healthy environment.
  • The inability or reluctance on the part of the parent to seek or give medical treatment necessary for the child’s recovery from an illness or injury.
  • Denying the child access to an education that the government deems appropriate for their age. This can involve a parent refusing to send their kid to school, failing to seek help if the child refuses to go to school, or failing to meet their commitments if they choose to home-school their child.
  • A parent that abandons or leaves a child alone for an extended period of time. Forcing them to care for themselves is a form of neglect.
  • A parent who suffers from a mental disorder may endanger the child’s safety.
  • A parent exhibiting antisocial behavior, such as refusing to interact with neighbors or remaining cooped up indoors.
  • A parent allowing the child to be hurt intentionally and knowingly through neglect, verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
  • A parent engaging in sexual acts in the presence of a child, as well as exposing them to pornographic material of any kind.
  • A parent’s lack of involvement/ability in searching for their child if they go missing.
  • Children should naturally feel comfortable and secure in the presence of their parents. If a child does not feel at ease around one or both parents, the court may rule that they are unsuitable to care for the child.

How can you prove your spouse is unfit? 

As the parent asserting that the other is unfit, you’ll be expected to show that the other parent is incapable of caring for the child and safeguarding his or her welfare. This isn’t as simple as it seems. You’ll need to employ a child custody lawyer to assist you in gathering evidence and proving your ex’s abusive or negligent behavior. 

Your attorney may utilize the following evidence:

  • Statements from neighbors, teachers, and other witnesses who were present when your ex-spouse acted in an undesirable manner.
  • Police records describing your ex’s abusive or violent conduct.
  • Medical and school records.

Contact our firm today

Are you involved in a child custody dispute? Issues of parental abuse and neglect are complicated and hard to define. If you are faced with losing custody of your child or believe your child may be at risk while in the care of someone else, you should contact a family law attorney as soon as possible. 

At Shea Kohl Law, we will work with you to find a solution that is in your child’s best interests. Our experienced child custody attorneys can assist you in proving that your ex is unfit or in disproving any proof or accusations that you are unfit. For a confidential consultation call us at (636) 946-9999.

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Shea Kohl Law, LC serves clients in Missouri including St. Charles, Troy and Lincoln and throughout Warren and St. Louis counties. We also serve clients in Illinois.