Bringing experience, knowledge and compassionTo The Legal Battlefield.
Photo of Attorneys Dennis Schroader

4 issues that constitute unfit parenting in a Washington divorce

by | Apr 19, 2023 | Child Custody

When you decided to start afresh in life without your spouse, you may have worried about the implications your decisions would have on your children’s lives. The good news is that kids are resilient and adaptable by nature. The not so good news is that you may be in for a fight if you plan on requesting sole child custody based on your ex’s unfitness as a parent.

You’ll have to convince the judge overseeing your Washington divorce case that your children are better off without their other parent, which can be challenging since the court typically believes children fare best when they have an active relationship with both parents.

These issues are relevant to unfitness as a parent

The following list includes several issues that would undoubtedly add relevance to your claim that your former spouse is unfit for custody:

  • He or she has never shown interest or concern or accepted responsibility in your children’s lives.
  • There is evidence of abandonment, neglect or abuse.
  • Your ex is addicted to drugs or alcohol.
  • He or she has multiple felony crime convictions.
  • A licensed medical doctor or psychologist has diagnosed mental illness.

The court always has your children’s best interests in mind when making child custody decisions. The average family court judge would no doubt find these issues concerning and a possible reason for denying custody to a parent in a divorce.

Things to keep in mind when suing for sole child custody

If you file a petition in a Washington court requesting sole child custody due to your former spouse’s unfitness as a parent as part of a divorce settlement, be aware that the court must grant your ex an opportunity to refute the allegation. This can include presenting evidence and enlisting testimony from people who are willing to attest to his or her good character.

You may also enlist testimonial support from others, such as someone who witnessed your ex being abusive. This might include a neighbor, a relative, a teacher or coach, or parent of one of your child’s friends, to name a few. Local law enforcement officers or Child Protective Services (CPS) officials may also be able to provide relevant testimony.

The court can modify shared custody to sole custody

You might think that, since you already have a shared child custody agreement in place, it’s too late to make a change. However, this is not necessarily true. If circumstances have revealed that your co-parent, who was once fit for custody is now unfit, you may file a petition requesting sole custody at any time.