Understanding the Legal Question of a Parent’s Fitness to Raise a Child

Posted on in Divorce

When a divorce is contentious and can only be resolved through litigation rather than mediation, allegations concerning a parent’s “fitness” to raise a child can often be a flash point. “You are not fit to raise our child” are words that cut deep and may turn an already hostile process into the most bitter of contests. If you believe that your ex-spouse is unfit to raise your child, know that parental fitness is a legal question. In other words, you cannot unilaterally decide that your ex-spouse is unfit as a parent. Lack of fitness is a multi-factor inquiry that is considered formally and has important legal ramifications.

Illinois Law Provides Criteria By Which to Establish If a Parent Is Unfit

On the ground in the real world, there are words that speak clearly to a lack of parental fitness: abuse, addiction, incarceration, and psychological instability, to name but a few. These blights on the welfare of a child are the true metrics by which the state of Illinois evaluates whether one or both parents of a child are legally unfit to have parental responsibility for their child. Here, the toughest of questions are asked:

  • Does the parent have a substance abuse problem?
  • Has the parent physically abused the child?
  • Has the parent sexually abused the child?
  • Has the parent psychologically abused the child?
  • Has the parent been convicted of crimes of abuse?

Obviously, a pattern of severe abuse will trend sharply towards a finding that an abusive parent is an unfit parent.

Questions of Neglect and Environmental Conditions Demand Evidence

After examining questions of substance abuse and whether the physical, sexual, and psychological safety and well-being of the child is at risk, the next set of criteria concerns whether the child has suffered from a history of neglect. Answers to this question – evidence – may involve a deeper investigation of the child’s environment and the individuals within it. Sadly, symptoms of neglect may not be as visible as physical symptoms of mistreatment, due to their internal, often emotional nature.

During divorce, it is important to protect children’s best interests. If you believe that your child may be at risk while they are in the care of your ex-spouse, the skilled attorneys at the Law Offices of Nancy Kasko, LLC can help you understand the criteria for establishing parental unfitness and advocate for your children’s safety and well-being throughout the divorce process. Contact an experienced, compassionate West Chicago divorce attorney today at 630-836-8540 to schedule a free, confidential consultation.