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When is a Parent Considered Unfit for Joint Custody?

One of the major aspects of divorce is the question of child custody. There was time when custody was awarded solely to the mother, especially if the child or children are still very young. The presumption is that as the primary caregiver, mothers are the “better” parent to provide the care needed. However, this presumption has been lifted and in most cases in California, courts prefer to give parents joint custody. Advocates of this default decision argue that the child or children have a better chance of getting through the disruptive force of divorce if both parents remain an active presence in their lives. It is also claimed that joint custody reduces conflict between parents.

But not all divorced parents are of this view. In many cases, both parents want sole custody of the child or children for a variety of reasons, but primarily because one considers the other an “unfit” parent.

In California, joint custody may mean one of two things: joint legal custody and joint physical custody. Joint legal custody means that both parents have equal rights to make decisions regarding the child’s education, health and welfare. Joint physical custody means that the child spends a significant amount of time with both parents, usually split evenly. To remove the rights of one parent for either type of joint custody is not at all easy unless it can be proven that one parent is unfit to take care of the child or children.

There is no clear definition of what makes a parent unfit, although the following factors may be considered as a given:

  • Past domestic violence
  • Physically or emotionally abusive behavior
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Sexual offense conviction

Some parents argue that since the other parent has a full-time job, it makes him or her unfit because of physical absence. Unless the work requires prolonged absence from the home or extended hours, mere employment is not proof of being unfit and may not be used as a basis for termination of custodial rights.

2 Responses to “When is a Parent Considered Unfit for Joint Custody?”

  1. This is a very difficult topic to understand, but this article makes it very clear and easy. Great work.

  2. Your blog is improperly displaying characters when I use Ubunto with Google Chrome. Just thought you should know!

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