Divorce is typically an emotionally charged process. When the process includes child custody, it is even more difficult.
A parental unfitness claim requires extensive evaluation by the court, often involving the Department of Children and Families.
How Massachusetts defines an unfit parent
In general, an unfit parent cannot sufficiently protect the welfare of the child or adequately provide for their needs. The standard in a custody determination is what works in the best interest of the child, and determining parental fitness follows some inarguable statutes.
Factors that may allude to unfitness
Some factors that warrant a determination of unfitness include:
- The parent intentionally does not visit the child or pay child support.
- The parent cannot provide proper care or a safe living environment.
- The child suffered abuse or neglect by the parent.
- The child bonded strongly with another parent or caregiver, and separately them is not in the best interests of the child.
- The parent does not contact the child within a six-month period.
- The court uncovers a pattern of neglect or abuse in the past that led to physical injuries to the child.
- A child aged four years or older spent at least 12 out of the most recent 15 months in foster care.
Some of these factors commonly come up during custody cases, especially in cases where one parent requests sole custody.
The process of analyzing parental unfitness naturally overlaps with protecting the best interest of the child. Identifying problematic parental behavior is an important component in protecting the welfare of a child in complex custody cases.