How a California Judge Determines if a Parent is Unfit for Custody?

Divorce is a stressful and life-changing event. It impacts all the members of a family. Some people amicably end their marriage. However, some family law issues can present many challenges and may cause marriages to end very contentiously. The former couples are seen swearing and screaming their lungs out in court. Their interactions become especially heated in sensitive matters, like child custody. It is not uncommon to see them threatening each other that they are unfit for parenting and must give up custody rights completely. In truth, what your spouse believes about your parenting skills is meaningless compared to what the Los Angeles County family law court believes.


How a California Judge Determines if a Parent is Unfit for Custody?


Judges are not keen on severing a relationship between a parent and the child. If your spouse seeks to have you declared ‘unfit’ for parenting, he or she must present undeniable evidence to support such claims. An empty accusation, no matter how loudly exclaimed, is not sufficient in a court of law.

Factors to Determine if a Parent is Unfit

A judge may order a 730 child custody evaluation during a divorce to determine if a parent is fit for parenting. Many factors help the court make their determination, such as;

1. Level of involvement
- How much was a parent involved in their child’s life since birth?
- Do they know their child’s routine or life at school?
- Do they know who the primary caretaker in their child’s life is?
The parent with more involvement in their child’s life is more likely to win the custody claim.

2. Understanding a child’s needs
- Does a parent consider the child’s needs when making a decision?
- Do they appropriately communicate with the child that their needs are understood and subsequently met?
The parent with a better understanding of a child’s needs will likely win the custody claim.

3. Child’s feelings towards a parent
- Does the child love or fear a parent?
- Does the child feel comfortable in a parent’s presence and desires to remain there?
The court considers a child’s (younger than 14) preference in granting custody to a parent.

4. Age-appropriate limitations
- Does a parent set and enforce age-appropriate limitations on the child?
- Do they have a curfew for a teenager or bedtime safety rules for a toddler?
More responsible parents will likely win custody.

5. Conflict resolution
- Does a parent handle the divorce or other conflicts in a constructive manner?
- Does the parent present a good example to the child for conflict resolution?
Someone who seeks to minimize a conflict will likely gain custody.

6. Child abuse
- Does a parent have a history of child abuse?
It goes without saying, but a judge will not grant custody to a proven abusive parent.

7. Domestic violence
- Does a parent have a history of violence in the household?
- Do they have a restraining order or a conviction for violence?
- Do they have anger management issues?
People with a history of domestic violence will rarely get custody, primarily if it is directed towards the child.

8. Substance abuse
- Does a parent have a problem with alcohol or drug use?
- Do they seek treatment for it?
Any substance abuse threatens a child’s safety and will be taken seriously in an evaluation.

9. Mental illness
- Does a parent have a debilitating mental illness?
- Does this illness threaten the welfare of the child?
- Does the patient seek treatment?
Any illness that doesn’t threaten a child’s welfare will not affect custody decisions.

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