An unfit parent is incapable of reasonably and prudently caring for a child in his or her ward. The parent may be mentally unstable, abusive, neglectful or otherwise unable to provide proper care to the child. Keeping a child in the custody of an unfit parent can lead to tragedies. If you believe your ex-spouse is unfit to provide custodial care to your child after a divorce, take action to protect the child right away. Contact an attorney in Colorado about how to regain custody from an unfit parent.
How the Courts Deem a Parent Unfit to Have Custody of a Child
In Colorado, you may have the legal right to remove your child from an ex-spouse’s custody temporarily or permanently if the courts deem him or her unfit as a parent. To do so, you or your child custody lawyer will need to prove the parent meets the definition of unfit under Colorado law. This definition varies from state to state. An unfit parent in Colorado fulfills the parameters of Colorado Revised Statute 19-5-105 based on provided evidence or an investigation.
- The parent has a mental health disorder, behavioral or emotional illness, or intellectual and developmental disability of a nature and duration as to interfere with his or her ability to care for the physical, emotional and mental needs of the child.
- A single event occurred that is severe enough to prove the parent is unfit, such as an incident that causes serious or life-threatening bodily injuries or disfigurements to the child or other children.
- The parent has engaged in physically abusive or sexually abusive conduct toward the child or any other children.
- The parent has a history of violence, including an incidence of sexual assault that resulted in the conception of the child, which demonstrates the inability to maintain a parent-child relationship with the minor.
- The parent excessively imbibes in intoxicating liquors or uses controlled substances that affect his or her ability to provide for the child’s needs.
- Evidence exists that the parent is neglecting the child or has neglected other children.
- The parent’s abuse or neglect was previously proven to result in the injury or death of the child’s sibling or other children.
- A child in the parent’s physical custody was, on two or more occasions, adjudicated dependent or neglected under Article 3 of the law or similar state or federal laws.
- On one or more occasions, the parent has already had the parent-child relationship terminated.
Proving a parent unfit is generally difficult. It requires a fitness hearing and a burden of proof on the parent doing the filing. If a judge does determine the parent to be unfit under Colorado law, the courts may withdrawal custody from him or her. An event involving one child that proves a parent’s lack of fitness will generally result in the loss of custody of all other children involved as well.
How to Regain Full Custody From an Unfit Parent
If you believe your ex-spouse is an unfit parent and should not be in custody of your child, call an attorney in Colorado for advice as to how to protect the child through the legal system. If you think your child is in immediate danger of bodily harm or it is an emergency, call 911 right away. Otherwise, work with an attorney on a legal strategy for regaining full custody of your child through a fitness hearing.
Once your lawyer files the initial motion requesting a fitness hearing, the courts will schedule a date for the hearing to take place in your county. You and your ex-spouse will attend the fitness hearing, along with your lawyers (if applicable), where a judge will listen to both sides of the story to determine whether the parent in question fulfills Colorado’s definition of unfit. If so, the courts may rule to terminate the parent-child legal relationship. The courts will award sole custody and legal responsibilities to the other parent. If both parents are unfit, the child may go to another guardian or foster care. Speak with a lawyer for more information about regaining custody from an unfit parent in Colorado.