Dealing with “bad apples”….Evidence of neglect, abuse, criminal convictions and subtance abuse can prove your opponent’s unfitness.
Most courts endeavor to grant joint custody — at least in most cases. The prevailing wisdom has been that children deserve to have relationships with both parents, and they will benefit emotionally, psychologically, socially and intellectually from having two parents in their lives.
Some cases, however, involve a “bad apple” — a parent who does not provide a positive influence to the child and who may be very shrewd in misleading the court into believing he or she is a model parent. If your case involves a “bad apple,” then you should act promptly to develop evidence of your opponent’s misdeeds.
The key areas to explore are:
- Evidence of child abuse, neglect or abandonment;
- Evidence of criminal convictions (including numerous traffic offenses or drunk driving convictions;
- Evidence of a history of domestic violence
- Evidence of substance abuse (drugs or alcohol)
- Evidence of moral unfitness (for example, a history of prostitution or frequent patronage of strip clubs).
Remember that a court generally will presume the right of each parent to share in the custody of the child. Therefore, if you intend to prove that a parent is “unfit” to participate in custody, joint custody or parenting time with the children, you will need to build your case strategically from the outset. If a party has a history of abuse or neglect, gather the records and mark them as exhibits before you go to court. If a party has been convicted or incarcerated for crimes in the past, run a search of his criminal record and gather copies of criminal complaints, judgments of conviction and sentencing orders. The same goes for domestic violence restraining orders.
By compiling the evidence carefully and well in advance of any courtroom proceedings, you can build a case for parental unfitness that will solidify your claim for custody and protect your children from a “bad apple.”