You want what is best for your children. In the perfect situation, you and the other parent would happily co-parent and share time with your children. However, even if this is your dream, this can’t be your reality if the other parent is unfit and the children aren’t safe with the other parent. Are you wondering what you need to show the Court to prove your safety concerns for your children are real? Keep in mind that unfit parenting isn’t a matter of opinion, but a term of law. Once claims of unfit parenting have been made, the parent who made the claim is generally the parent that must prove it.

What if the Other Parent is Unfit and How Do You Prove It?

Here’s how to access a case of unfit parenting, and what the next legal steps are.

Assess The Situation

A parent should carefully evaluate the situation if they have concerns that the other parent is unfit and that the children are not safe in the other parent’s care. This is beyond being difficult to work with and beyond being rude or obnoxious to the other parent. The Court is generally focused on issues more directly related to the children’s safety. This is often drug use, alcohol abuse, or physical abuse of the children. The Court takes these issues seriously but you will need to prove it if the other parent is denying. The Court is always looking for the best interests of the children. However, the Judge has to focus on evidence and not just accusations when making these assessments.

Gather Evidence

What evidence you need to gather depends on the specific safety concern. For concerns regarding drugs or alcohol, you may have text messages where the party acknowledges having been out drinking or partying. You may have had conversations where you can testify to the other parent have spoken with slurred speech or glazed over eyes. Maybe they were stumbling when they came to your home and you caught this on a Ring door camera. Once you file the action, the Court may order the other parent to submit to a chemical dependency evaluation or to a hair follicle drug test to have a professional determine the other parent’s drug or alcohol use. In the right case, you may want to hire a private investigator to show they frequent a certain bar and drink alcohol before coming for the parenting time exchange. You could subpoena their bank records to show that they are frequenting the liquor store.

If you believe the children are being abused, report it and document it. Take the children to the doctor so that the doctor can evaluate whether the injury is consistent with child abuse. Generally this will include photos and an assessment by a medical professional.

While collecting evidence, you need to keep legal boundaries in mind. Your attorney can guide you as to what evidence you can collect and how to do it lawfully. For the evidence that is available to you, keep copies of such. For example, if you receive a text message that you believe is helpful to your case, screen shot it and save it to your e-mail in case something happens to your phone. Make a copy of your door bell camera video while it is still easily available to you. If you suspect something illegal, you may need to contact the appropriate law enforcement agencies as soon as possible. You may be able to subpoena a copy of the results of their investigation.

Be Specific About Events and Dates

Collect evidence carefully and collect everything that you believe will serve as future evidence. You will likely need to be specific about events and their dates. For example, if you save a text message you may need to save a number of screens so that it shows the date the text message was transmitted. If there was a certain event on a certain date, make a note of it so you can remember specifically what day the event happened.

Professional Evaluations

You can also involve professionals to help prove your case. For example, if you can show enough evidence that there may be cause for concern, the Judge can order additional testing by a professional. This could be testing regarding drugs or alcohol abuse as mentioned above.
If there are concerns regarding physical abuse, this often includes Child Protective Services evaluating the allegations of abuse or neglect.
The Court can order a mental health or psychiatric evaluation if there are concerns that the other parent’s mental health status is causing the children to be unsafe in their care.

The children can also be evaluated by a professional. You can often do so without a court order. This could be having a therapist evaluate the children and making recommendations. This could also be things like a custody evaluation, which is often a very detailed investigation by a mental health professional, including interviews and testing of each parent and the children.

Reasons for professional involvement may include:

  • Suspicion of child abuse: this can be emotional abuse but is often due to physical abuse
  • Substance Abuse: Drug or Alcohol Abuse
  • Mental illness or mental health issues
  • Child Neglect

Put the Children First

No matter the faults of the other parent, keep the children as the focus. The children likely love and want to protect and feel good about both parents, no matter the parent’s flaws. Treat the situation with composure and the other parent with respect. While you need to protect your children, approach the situation with maturity and professionalism, even if the other parent does not or is not capable of such at this time. Gather your evidence and seek the assistance of the Court and professionals to help you protect your children. Proceed with dignity.

Seek Out Professional Help

If you suspect that your children are not safe or the other parent is unfit, seek the help of professionals. Your family law attorney can guide you through the process and often has referrals for professionals with experience in your area.

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If you are looking for an attorney in a child support case or divorce in Omaha, Nebraska, or the surrounding areas (including Papillion, Bellevue, Gretna, Elkhorn, Lincoln, Nebraska City, Sarpy, and Lancaster), contact our office to set up a consultation.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.