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Definition of an unfit parent

| Feb 28, 2021 | Child Custody & Parenting Time |

The court does not like to break up families. It will usually do anything and everything possible to keep a family together, but sometimes, a court must remove children from a parent’s care due to the parent being unfit.

FindLaw explains that when the court declares someone as an unfit as a parent, he or she may lose parental rights or have to prove his or her fitness as a parent to the court. So, how does the court determine an unfit parent?

Best interests

Absent of all other rules, almost every court will look at the best interests of the child when determining parental fitness. The court’s ultimate goal is doing what is best for the child at the heart of the case. If a parent is not necessarily unfit but the court feels being in that parent’s care is dangerous or unhealthy for a child, then it may declare the parent unfit so that it can remove custody rights.

Washington law

More often, each state has specific rules for what makes a parent unfit. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Washington will usually declare a parent unfit if he or she has a criminal history involving an assault on a child, rape of a child or mistreatment of a child. Convictions for violent crimes against the other parent also fall into this category.

The court will also remove rights if a parent is a sexually violent predator or someone who refuses to complete treatment as ordered previously by a court to regain parental rights. Other things that will prompt the unfit parent ruling include an incest conviction and abandonment of a child under the age of three.

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