What Qualifies As An Unfit Parent In Colorado?

July 28, 2021

More and more children are living in single-parent households in the United States. According to the United States Census Bureau, while 85% of children lived with two parents in 1968, that number dipped to 70% by 2020. In some cases, children may live exclusively in a single-parent household because one of the parents qualifies as an unfit parent. If you are separated from your spouse and have questions about what constitutes an unfit parent in Colorado, consider reaching out to a knowledgeable and compassionate family lawyer for guidance. The attorneys at Johnson Law Group are committed to the best interests of Colorado families and can be reached at (720) 463-4333.

The Factors for Determining an Unfit Parent in Colorado

Generally speaking, a parent is considered an unfit parent in Colorado if they have either failed to meet the child’s needs or endangered the child’s well-being. Declaring an unfit parent is not a simple process, the court will carefully examine several factors before making a decision. These may include:

  • Whether the parent has a mental health disorder or other disability that limits his or her capacity to care for the child.
  • Examples of an event or events that occurred that prove the parent is unfit - such as one that led to injury or trauma for a child.
  • Situations in which the parent has been physically or sexually abusive towards their own child or other children.
  • Whether the parent has been violent in the past.
  • If the parent abuses substances, such as drugs and alcohol, to an extent that they cannot provide proper care for the child.
  • Any evidence that the parent is neglecting or has neglected the child or other children.
  • Cases where a parent’s previous neglect resulted in the injury or death of other children.
  • Whether the parent already has terminated the parent-child relationship.

The courts are extremely cautious about declaring an unfit parent in Colorado and the process requires a lot of documentation and other forms of evidence.

The Process for Declaring a Parent Unfit

According to the international child abuse prevention and treatment organization Childhelp, the United States has one of the worst records among developed nations for child abuse and neglect. If you are worried that your child is in immediate danger, it is important to call 911. However, if you are concerned that your ex-spouse or partner is an unfit parent in Colorado but your child is not in immediate danger, you can work with an experienced family law attorney to have them declared unfit and gain full custody of the child.

The process for declaring a parent unfit is known as a fitness hearing. After an attorney files an initial motion requesting the hearing, the court will schedule a date for the hearing. The parent who is filing the motion and the ex-spouse will both attend the hearing, where the judge will review the evidence and decide if the parent is unfit. If the parent is declared unfit, the court may terminate the parent-child legal relationship and the other parent will be granted sole custody. If both parents are determined to be unfit, the child will go to another guardian or foster care.

It is important to consider finding an experienced and compassionate lawyer to support you throughout the process and help you present a strong case at court. The family lawyers at Johnson Law Group can provide you with the support that you need, and help ensure your legal and parental rights remain protected.

Proving A Parent Is Unfit in Colorado

The court will not easily declare an unfit parent in Colorado, which is why it is important to present a strong and compelling claim that is supported by evidence. In addition to examining evidence, the court will also require a psychological evaluation of the parent that is being examined as unfit. The court may also ask external caregivers to testify. Some of the ways that the parent filing the claim can strengthen their case include:

  • Present critical documentation such as police reports, medical records, and drug tests. Even documentation that is not recent may be relevant.
  • Focus on specific events that impacted the child - for example, if the parent received a DUI while driving with the car. Or perhaps there are medical reports of a child being injured as a result of domestic violence.
  • Bring in witnesses who can support claims - for example, someone who saw the parent hit the child or psychologists or physicians who can provide expert testimony to back up the claims.

Unfit Parents’ Rights

Many parents may be wondering what happens after a parent is declared an unfit parent in Colorado.  The other parent is awarded sole custody, which means that the child will live with them full-time and that parent has full legal authority over the child. However, the unfit parent’s parental rights are not terminated - that is to say, they are still considered a parent of the child. This means they may still be able to gain limited or supervised visitation with the child. An unfit parent can also take active steps to appeal the decision and try and get their parental rights re-established. Some actions that may help include:

  • Attending parenting classes
  • Respecting and following all court orders
  • Maintaining steady employment
  • Seeking mental health support
  • Attending all court hearings
  • Seeking treatment for drug or alcohol dependency

How an Experienced Family Law Attorney Can Help

Understanding the process around declaring an ex-spouse an unfit parent in Colorado can be harrowing and overwhelming to navigate. A qualified lawyer can help answer any questions and work with you to build a strong court case to protect your children. The compassionate and experienced lawyers at Johnson Law Group are dedicated to the well-being of your children and your family. Consider reaching out to our legal team today for support at (720) 463-4333.

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