What is Considered an Unfit Parent in Sugar Land, Texas?
There are few prospects as unpleasant as leaving your child exposed to an unfit parent as a result of a custody dispute following a divorce or the breakdown of a relationship. There are many ways a parent may be considered unfit – they may have a history of domestic violence, a problem with alcohol or drugs, or a criminal history.
Thankfully, when it comes to determining legal custody in Sugar Land, the court and Judge should prioritize situations that center the child’s best interests. This means preventing primary residence (or even visitation rights, in some cases) from being granted to an unfit parent. While there are no concrete definitions of unfit parenting in Sugar Land, there are many legal precedents, which we will explore in this article.
If you believe it is in your child’s best interest to have no contact or to avoid primary residence with an unfit parent, Skillern Firm is here to help. We aim to settle even the most bitter of family disputes with compassion and skill that minimizes conflict and keeps your child as safe as possible from all types of emotional harm.
To find out how an attorney from Skillern Firm could help you, call 936-213-8479 today.
How A Judge Will Decide Custody And Visitation Rights
Many different custody rights can result from the legal process in Texas. A parent may be granted sole custody, joint custody, or even deemed unfit and allowed no part in the child’s life.
Which of these results is reached by the Judge and the court will depend on a number of factors. The factors that determine this result include considerations of:
- Whether there is any potential danger to the children from either of the parents
- The stability of each parent
- How involved each parent has been in the child’s life before the case reached the court
- The emotional and physical needs of the children
- The proximity of other family members to each parent
- The child’s preference, if that child is age twelve or more and can articulate their opinion in a reasoned and lucid way
Essentially, custody and visitation rights for an individual case will be determined by the evidence of what is in the best interest of the children.
It is important to note that the Texas courts will not consider the gender of either parent at all when making their decisions.
A Judge Will Usually Prefer Joint Custody Arrangements
When it comes to Family Law matters, a Sugar Land Judge will usually attempt to reach a joint custody agreement between the two parents.
This is because it is believed to be in the best interest of the children involved if they can continue to have at least visitation with each parent or legal guardian.
However, there are situations where the Judge will prefer to grant one parent sole custody over a joint custody agreement. This is when one of the parents involved is found to be unfit, usually due to abuse, neglect, or other past behaviors that could have a serious impact on the best interests of the child.
If the other parent in your child custody case has such a history, you should secure the support of an experienced and skilled lawyer as soon as possible to keep your children safe in your primary physical custody.
Defining An Unfit Parent
There is no explicit legal definition of an unfit parent under the Texas Family Code. Instead, the Judge will consider the specific evidence at hand across a number of categories.
Generally speaking, there are certain past actions that are more likely to leave a parent deemed unfit, such as violence or historic substance issues. Economic disadvantages or a history of non-violent misdemeanors, however, are unlikely to be enough to prove a parent is unfit enough to result in a termination of parental rights.
In the following sections, we will look at some of the situations that may lead a Judge to grant one parent sole custody of their children.
A History Of Violence Or Sexual Abuse
If the other parent in your child custody case has historically been violent or sexually abusive, there is a high chance that the parent is deemed unfit and their legal separation from the child will be deemed in that child’s best interests.
When it comes to proving domestic violence or other abuse, there are many types of evidence that could work in court. You may have access to documents proving the violent criminal history of your ex-spouse, you may have medical records, text messages, or voicemail recordings. It is also possible to take witness statements from neighbors who have overhead violence taking place.
Drug Or Alcohol Abuse
If your previous co-parent had a history of abusing alcohol or controlled substances (whether illegal or available through prescription), this may be sufficient for them to be designated an unfit parent.
Again, there is a lot of potential proof available to demonstrate substance misuse. You may choose medical reports, copies of incriminating communications, witnesses, or many other relevant items – your attorney will be able to help you with this.
If a child was born already addicted to a controlled substance due to the presence of that substance in the mother’s bloodstream, this is usually grounds for sole custody to be granted to the other parent.
However, it is important to be aware that the other parent involved in your child custody battle may be able to convince the court that they have sufficiently sobered up and changed their behavior. This is another reason why it is important to have a skilled attorney to back your argument.
A History Of Neglectful Behavior
This is another important factor when determining child custody. However, neglect is a broad category, and usually it is only in the more extreme situations that it will lead to a court order of sole custody.
For example, if one parent has historically committed any of the following acts, they may be found to be unfit:
- Voluntarily abandoning a child in the past
- Being found primarily responsible for the death or injury of a child
- Willingly leaving a child with a person who is not their parent, family member, or legal guardian without the intent to return
- Placing a child in a dangerous environment
How Criminal History Impacts Child Custody
Child custody cases will be impacted by the criminal history of a parent. However, the simple presence of a criminal history will not always be enough to designate a parent as unfit.
For example, if a parent has committed several non-violent misdemeanors, it is unlikely that the court will find them unfit on the basis of this alone – especially if they have a good attorney on their side.
However, violent crimes, crimes of sexual nature, or multiple felonies are likely to impact the likelihood of custody being granted.
What Will Not Be Enough To Prevent Child Custody?
There are many things that can be seen as undesirable traits for a parent that will not be enough to secure the other parent sole custody on their own. Remember, joint custody agreements are almost always seen as being in the best interests of the child, so they will be prioritized if at all possible.
The following is a necessarily non-exhaustive list of traits that should not be enough to justify a sole custody agreement. However, they may still be worth working into your overall child custody argument.
- A parent being economically disadvantaged
- A parent having a history of non-violent misdemeanors
- A parent having mental health problems that are appropriately treated and medicated
- A parent having a heavily time-consuming work schedule
- A parent not complying with a court order
What Evidence Items May Be Useful In Demonstrating A Parent Is Unfit?
If you want to prove that one parent should not have responsibility for their children, it is highly likely that the decision will be taken to court.
At this point, as well as with the assistance of an experienced attorney, it is extremely helpful to have evidence items that back up your argument with tangible proof. What proof you provide will differ depending on the specifics of your case, and your attorney can help you assemble them and collate them into a solid argument.
However, here are some things that may be helpful:
- Text messages, voicemail recordings, social media posts, letters, or other pieces of media
- Official documents such as copies of criminal records, medical reports, police reports, court documents, and other things of this nature
- Eyewitness testimonies of neighbors, friends, relatives, school staff, or anyone else who has witnessed relevant events
- Expert witnesses such as child psychologists, medical professionals, or similar roles – depending on the specifics of your case
Hire A Family Lawyer Today
If you believe your children are not safe around your ex-partner, it is vital that you secure legal assistance from a lawyer from an experienced and reputable law firm as soon as possible.
Here at Skillern Firm, we have a wealth of experience dealing with Texas Family Law issues and providing support to get parents the legal result they desire. We believe in providing a compassionate, empathetic, and sensitive service that minimizes family conflict and potential emotional damage to the children involved wherever possible.
For more information on how we could help you, call us at 936-213-8479.