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What Does "Unfit Parent" Really Mean?

 Posted on August 15, 2022 in Divorce

Will County child custody lawyerDuring a divorce, it is not uncommon for one parent to claim that the other is an unfit parent in an effort to get sole custody. You may be reading this because your (soon to be ex) spouse has called you an unfit parent and threatened to take sole custody of the children. If this is your situation, you should know that your spouse is not very likely to succeed. Unless you have truly endangered or harmed the children and there is proof, it is exceedingly rare for a court to deem one parent unfit and award the other sole custody. However, hearing your spouse refer to you this way can be incredibly hurtful and alarming. Our attorneys are ready to step in and fight for you and your children. 

Defining “Unfit Parent” in Illinois

In Illinois, the definition of an unfit parent is relatively vague. Our state law says that an unfit parent is one who cannot be trusted to take care of a child. For you to lose custody and visitation rights, your child’s other parent would have to prove that there is a specific reason that you should not have access to your children. Reasons a parent may be deemed unfit include: 

  • Abuse - A parent who is physically, sexually, or emotionally abusive or otherwise cruel towards the child, such that the child is not likely to benefit from a continued relationship with that parent

  • Neglect - Failing to meet the children’s basic needs despite the ability to do so can mean a parent is unfit

  • Abandonment -  A parent who has abandoned their child is likely unfit

  • Severe mental illness - In some cases, a very severe mental health condition or other mental impairment can prevent a parent from caring for their child. Not all mental health issues count here - the condition must be severe and uncontrolled to the point where the parent cannot be trusted around their child

  • Substance abuse - Someone who is addicted to an illicit substance may not be sober enough to safely supervise children

These are the main reasons that a parent could be declared unfit, but this is not an exhaustive list by any means. 

Proving That a Parent is Unfit

Before a judge would declare you unfit, your spouse would have to bring substantial and convincing evidence that you are truly unfit. Their word alone is not good enough - they need things like medical documentation showing injuries to the children, videos of you abusing or endangering them, police reports, testimony from neighbors, or messages you wrote. 

If your spouse has none of this, then you likely have nothing to worry about. However, when it comes to your relationship with your children, do not take chances. Get strong legal representation to fight back against false allegations. 

Speak With a Will County Child Custody Lawyer

The Foray Firm is committed to helping parents and children maintain strong relationships. Our experienced Homewood child custody attorneys will fight for you to keep or regain custody of your children. Call 312-702-1293 for a free consultation. 



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