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How Do Situations of “Unfit Parents” Impact Child Custody in New Jersey?

While matters of divorce are complicated enough, they can become even more so emotionally difficult when there are children involved. It is because of this that child custody is a major part of divorce proceedings between parents. When dealing with these issues, mediators, arbitrators, and judges must consider all facets of a family’s situation in order to determine what would be in the best interest of the child moving forward. While it tends to be a non-issue in the majority of cases, there are some cases in which a parent may be deemed “unfit.” This can impact custody proceedings in a variety of ways. Continue reading below and contact an experienced New Jersey family law attorney to learn more.

What is an “Unfit Parent?”

In New Jersey, the legal definition of an unfit parent is a parent or caretaker who is unable to provide a safe, secure, nurturing home for their child. The inability to do so could put the child at risk of suffering emotional, psychological, or physical harm as a result. While each case is different from one another, potential grounds for finding a parent to be unfit may include:

  • Mental health issues or mental illness of a parent
  • A history of dangerous actions, violent behavior, or criminal activities (including but not limited to domestic violence)
  • Substance abuse or addiction issues
  • Previous child neglect, child endangerment, etc.

In order for one parent to prove that the other is unfit, they are required to satisfy the burden of proof. This means they must gather evidence that proves any of the grounds listed above or a parent’s inability to care for a child/put them in harm’s way. 

How Can Being Deemed an Unfit Parent Impact Custody?

There are two main areas of child custody in the state of New Jersey: physical child custody and legal child custody. In the event that a parent is deemed unfit, it can affect these areas in the following ways:

  • Physical child custody: This type of custody determines where a child lives and spends the majority of their time. When a parent is deemed unfit, they can be granted reduced or even no parenting time. In best case situations, one parent may allow their child to safely spend time with the “unfit” parent through supervised visitation, parenting time, or digital visitation.
  • Legal child custody: This type of custody determines a parent’s right to be involved in making major decisions for their child throughout their upbringing. Generally, unfit parents are not granted legal child custody in New Jersey. However, it is not a guarantee, and parents can still fight for this right. 

Contact our Firm

If you need an experienced legal team to guide you through your family law matter, contact Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark L.L.C today.