The family court will determine whether your ex-spouse is an unfit parent in a Georgia child custody case. The court can grant sole custody to you if you prove your ex-spouse is unfit.

However, before arguing that your ex-spouse is an unfit parent, you must be sure the allegations are true. Courts do not take allegations that a parent is unfit lightly because it involves the child’s safety and well-being. An experienced Lawrenceville child custody lawyer can help you gather evidence that provides a clear and factual argument that your ex-spouse is an unfit parent. 

Steps for Proving Your Ex-Spouse Is an Unfit Parent in Georgia

First, discuss the matter with your lawyer. You will need sufficient evidence to persuade the court that your ex is unfit to parent your children. Your lawyer will instruct you on the type of evidence you need and help you gather this evidence.

Evidence that can help prove a parent’s unfitness includes, but is not limited to:

  • Police reports
  • Testimony from witnesses
  • Photographs and videos
  • Opinions from experts
  • Medical records 
  • Mental health evaluations
  • Copies of text messages, emails, and other correspondence
  • Reports from child protective services
  • Recordings of voice mails

It also helps to keep a detailed journal noting all incidents that support your claim that your ex-spouse is an unfit parent. Note the date, time, and a description of the event. 

Give all evidence to your attorney. Your lawyer prepares the appropriate legal documents to file with the court. 

If you have a pending divorce case, the matter will be part of your divorce. If not, your attorney can file a new case petitioning the court for custody because the child’s other parent is unfit to have custody. 

What Is an Unfit Parent?

Fitness is the ability and intention to care for a child. A parent should be able to provide a safe environment for their child, meet their child’s needs, and provide proper support and guidance. If a parent cannot meet this standard of care, they could be considered unfit.

Factors that can make a parent unfit include, but are not limited to:

  • Exposing the child to obscene or immoral materials or situations
  • Abandoning a child
  • Failing to provide for a child’s basic needs
  • Child abuse and cruelty
  • Neglect 
  • Habitual drunkenness and/or drug abuse
  • Rearing a child under obscene, immoral, or indecent influences that could degrade the child’s moral character 
  • A parent’s lewd or other vicious habits
  • Failing to set appropriate limits for the child based on the child’s age
  • Evidence of domestic violence
  • Psychiatric illness that could make the parent a danger to the child

When you file a petition with the court to have your ex-spouse declared an unfit parent, the judge will likely appoint a child custody evaluator. This professional considers any of the above factors present in the situation along with other factors deemed relevant to determining a parent’s fitness. 

The court considers all evidence when making its decision, including the evidence you provide and the opinion of the child custody evaluator. Your ex-spouse has the right to present a defense to your allegations, including submitting evidence and expert testimony. The decision regarding fitness is up to the judge.

What Happens if the Court Determines My Spouse Is an Unfit Parent?

If a judge determines a parent is unfit, the judge can grant sole physical and legal custody to the other parent. Depending on the circumstances, the judge could deny visitation with an unfit parent or order supervised visitation. It will depend on the facts of the case.

If the court grants you sole custody of your child, you will likely receive child support based on the Georgia child support guidelines. You have sole decision-making authority for your child, so you will not need to consult your ex-spouse regarding decisions about your child’s medical care, education, extra-curricular activities, or religious upbringing.

It should be noted that your ex-spouse can file a petition with the court to seek custody and/or visitation in the future. Your ex-spouse would have the burden of proving that they have made changes that now make them a fit parent. Contact a Lawrenceville child custody lawyer immediately if you receive legal papers from your ex-spouse. 

To learn more and get the help you deserve, call our divorce & family law firm at (404) 594-2143 or reach out to Crystal Wright Law online by visiting our contact us page.
You can also visit our law firm at 440 S. Perry Street Suite 105, Lawrenceville, GA 30046.