If you are in the middle of a divorce and you have doubts about your ex's ability to parent your children, it's important to take steps to protect the children right from the start. Once you have a signed custody arrangement with your former spouse, this agreement stands until your ex does something new to cause you concern about the safety of your children. If you have legitimate concerns during your divorce, you need to bring your concerns to the negotiating table. A parent can be deemed unfit for a number of reasons, which include being incarcerated, involvement with illegal drugs, or problems with serious mental health issues that are not being treated.
The Parent is Unavailable to Parent the Children
When a parent is incarcerated, it's easy to prove that they are unavailable to parent the children. This can also be true if the parent works late hours and doesn't have childcare, or the parent doesn't have a safe place where the children can live when they have visitation. If you are dealing with an ex spouse who goes in and out of jail, you need to push for full physical custody so that your children can live in a stable environment.
The Parent is Abusing Substances
While substance abuse may be difficult to prove, if you believe your ex is involved in drug or alcohol abuse, you have to bring this up in court. At the very least, you will have let the judge know that you have concerns. If the issue comes up in the future, you will be able to say that you tried to address it in the first place.
Your Ex is Not Getting Mental Health Treatment
You don't want to use previous mental health history against your ex if they are in treatment and it's working. If your former spouse is resistant to mental health treatment and they are not safe around your children, you have to bring their mental health history into question. While plenty of people with mental health problems parent children effectively, if your ex is not seeking treatment, it's time to bring up your concerns in court.
As you go through your divorce, it's helpful to remember that your children need both parents as much as possible. If your ex is truly an unfit parent, you need to fight for their safety. If you are fighting for full custody out of spite, it's time to take a step back and look at your motivation. Contact a divorce lawyer for more information.