How Does the Court Decide if Someone is an Unfit Parent?
Child Custody
How Does the Court Decide if Someone is an Unfit Parent?



How Does the Court Decide if Someone is an Unfit Parent?

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Ohio divorce and family law courts typically prefer joint child custody between parents, an arrangement in which both participate in the important decisions involved with raising the child. Shared parental rights and responsibilities enable the child to foster a close relationship with each parent. However, there are some situations in which co-parenting would be inappropriate because one parent is unfit. In making a determination for sole custody in favor of one parent, the judge will review the best interests of the child as described by Ohio law.

If you find yourself on either side of the dispute, legal representation is critical. You might need to enforce your parental rights to protect your child, but you could also be facing false or exaggerated claims of being unfit. A North Canton child custody lawyer will advise you on the laws and develop a strategy for achieving your objectives, so you have an advocate on your side during court proceedings. Plus, it is helpful to review some information on how a court decides if someone is an unfit parent.

Best Interests of the Child Factors in Ohio

The statute applies to any case in which the allocation of parental responsibilities is being addressed, so it may come up in divorce or paternity proceedings. In making decisions on child custody, the judge is required to weigh all relevant factors. As they pertain to the fitness of a parent, the court will review the following:

  • The child’s relationship with parents, siblings, and other influential individuals;
  • The mental and physical health of the parents and child;
  • Whether a parent has failed to pay child support;
  • A parent’s history with convictions or pleading guilty to criminal activity, particularly offenses involving child abuse;
  • Any history of a parent denying parenting time to the other; and,
  • Whether a parent lives or is planning to live outside the state of Ohio.

If the court finds that the child’s best interests are not being served by applying these factors to one parent’s conduct, he or she could be deemed unfit.

Evidence in Child Custody Proceedings

The standard on the child’s best interests is the paramount consideration in assessing whether a parent is unfit, so a party on either side of the fitness dispute must have solid proof to support their position. Generally, the strategy should focus on each statutory factor, gathering as much evidence as possible to present in court. Information that would be useful in proving that a parent is unfit might include the following:

  • Police reports and conviction records;
  • An itemized list of all missed child support payments;
  • Exchanges of text messages or voice mails in which one parent refused visitation;
  • Social media posts indicating drug use or criminal activity; and,
  • Input from the child, in some cases, where age-appropriate.

Discuss Your Rights With a Stark County Child Custody Attorney 

To learn more about the factors judges reviews when determining whether a parent is unfit, please contact Fout Law Office, LLC in North Canton. You can schedule a consultation with an Ohio child custody lawyer who will review your situation and advise you on details.

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