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What makes a “bad parent” in the eyes of the law?

Co-parenting can be a significant challenge, particularly if you and your ex spouse have difficultly finding common ground. You may have taken additional steps to function well as a team with your ex spouse, but this seemingly hasn’t worked out. Your preference is to seek full custody of your children, but will the court agree that your ex is actually as bad of a parent as you think?

Maybe. The court is obligated to look at every child custody situation from the “best interests of the child,” and what makes someone a bad parent in the eyes of other people may not make them a bad parent in the eyes of the law.

If you’re seeking a modification to your co-parent’s custody or visitation rights, it’s important to understand what’s “bad enough” – and what isn’t – to warrant that kind of action. For the most part, the court looks for things like:

  • Disparagement: If your co-parent is actively trying to drive a wedge between you and your children by telling them all kinds of negative (and, likely, untrue) things about you, that could amount to an attempt at parental alienation.
  • Substance abuse: If your co-parent is using drugs or alcohol, that could seriously impair their ability to provide a safe environment for your children – and make it impossible for your ex to be an effective parent.
  • Physical abuse: No child should have to live in fear of physical harm from their own parent, so that court is definitely going to look at violence in the child’s home as a problem. This is true whether the abuse is coming from your ex or their current partner.
  • Immoral behavior: How this is defined by the court may vary, but it could include questionable choices such as driving drunk, public intoxication, putting the child in a dangerous situation or constantly exposing the children to a revolving variety of romantic partners.
  • Lack of involvement: If your ex spouse simply stops showing up for their parenting time and has stopped financially supporting the children, this will very likely affect the court’s opinion.

Custody issues can be quite complicated. If you’re concerned about your children and your custody plan isn’t working, it may be time to seek out more information.

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