You may believe that your child’s other parent is a bad parent, but are they an unfit parent?

Maybe. A lot of people contact attorneys’ offices about custody issues because they’re concerned about something that their child’s other parent has done — or failed to do.  Maybe the kids are living on fast food when they’re at their other parent’s house instead of having carefully prepared meals.  Maybe the other parent isn’t bothering to check that their homework is done, doesn’t much care about bedtimes and is constantly returning the child wired on sugar.

While these things certainly are not exemplary parenting, none of these necessarily make a parent unfit.

What does “unfit” legally mean?

Wisconsin law generally presumes that it’s in a child’s best interest to have both parents involved in their care, unless one of those parents is unfit — and that’s a serious allegation. Some examples of what it might take to get a judge to declare a parent unfit include:

  • The parent in question has been convicted of murdering the child’s other parent or is facing other serious charges and is currently incarcerated.
  • The parent is involved with (or has married) someone who has a history of abuse or a criminal record indicating they may not be safe around the child.
  • The parent has lost custody of other children due to abuse or neglect, or has been accused of abusing or neglecting the child in question by social services.
  • The parent suffers from drug addiction, alcoholism or a serious mental illness, and refuses to seek professional help, which makes it difficult for them to care for the child.
  • There’s evidence that the parent has been physically abusive or has failed to provide the child with necessities such as food, shelter and medication.

If any of these serious concerns are familiar, it may be possible to make a case for sole custody and placement of your child.