Like many other states, Arizona doesn’t favor one parent over another when it comes to child custody in a divorce.
However, if an unmarried couple with a child decides to call it quits, the court will automatically grant custody to the mother, unless the father takes legal action and deems her an “unfit parent.”
Even when married couples are getting a divorce, one spouse can deem the other an “unfit parent,” refusing them the right to meet their kids.
So how does one prove to the court that their former spouse is unfit to be a parent?
Taking Legal Action
Each state has unique criteria that it uses to determine whether or not a parent should be in their child’s life, and in what capacity.
An individual in Arizona who is getting a divorce and wants to prove that their former spouse is an unfit parent will have to file a formal request that asks the court to carry out a child custody evaluation.
Judges typically order an evaluation in cases of neglect and abuse. The evaluation will involve a formal assessment of mental health that will be led by a healthcare professional.
What Are the Criteria For Determining Whether an Individual is Fit or Unfit to be a Parent in Arizona?
Judges and custody evaluators in Arizona look at various factors to determine whether someone is or isn’t fit to be a parent.
- Involvement in the Child’s Life: Children come with a lot of responsibilities. So it’s not fair for a parent to ask for custody if they don’t take any responsibility in raising the child. In this case, the evaluators will look at how involved the parent is in their child’s life.
- Child’s Safety: Parents who struggle with mental illness, substance abuse, or just anger management may be a threat to their child’s life. If a parent has ever compromised their child’s safety, it raises red flags for court evaluators.
- A Child’s Attitude Towards the Parent: A child’s feelings and behavior toward their parents says a lot about their relationship. The court’s evaluators may ask the child questions about their parent and monitor their behavior closely. If the child appears frustrated, unresponsive, or scared around a parent, they probably don’t have a great relationship.
- A Parent’s Relationship, Attitude, and Behavior Toward their Former Spouse: The court evaluators will have to judge whether the parent who’s been assessed has a healthy relationship with their former spouse. They’ll take a look at their willingness to resolve conflicts with their ex and whether they’re ready to have a cordial relationship built on mutual understanding.
- Age-Appropriate Behavior: A parent who’s exposed a minor to actions or content that isn’t age-appropriate is probably not fit to be a parent. This includes everything from letting them consume violent or sexual content to allowing them to drink.
- Emotional Intelligence and Social Skills: Parents are expected to provide emotional support to their kids. They should also be able to teach their children integral social skills. If a parent struggles to connect emotionally with a child and has poor social skills, they could be considered an unfit parent.
- Mental Capacity: The easiest way to prove that a parent is unfit is to show the court that their mental capacity is compromised due to psychiatric conditions.
- History with Drugs/Alcohol: Any evidence of substance abuse can prove a person to be an unfit parent.
- Domestic Violence: If the parent has exposed the child to any sort of abuse (physical, sexual or emotional), they will instantly be deemed an unfit parent.
- Neglect and Child Abuse: It’s a parent’s responsibility to be attentive toward their child; any sort of neglect or abuse toward a child will be considered rash behavior.
Collecting and Showing Evidence
Custody evaluators will gather evidence by interviewing close relatives and friends of the family to learn about the parent’s relationship with their child. They can even connect with other professionals in a child’s life, including teachers, coaches, and even doctors. Evaluators may even carry out a psychological evaluation of both parents.
Criminal and Medical Records
People can strengthen the case against their former partner by collecting reports from the police department. This can include criminal history, medical records, drug tests, etc.
Reports from Witnesses
If there are witnesses who can back-up the claims you’re making, ask them to speak to court officials.
Talk to an Expert
In cases where a parent suspects that the child has been abused by their partner, they can take their child to a medical or mental health expert to get proof.
While you build a case against your ex, refrain from showing any sort of aggressive behavior toward them—you may end up giving them ammo instead. Focus on keeping your patience, sticking to the facts, and staying rational as you present your case.
An experienced family law attorney or a Divorce Lawyer will help you build effective legal strategies that sway the court in your favor and prove your former partner to be an unfit parent.