The Role of Parental Fitness in Custody Cases

When Parents Can’t Decide

The Role of Parental Fitness in Custody Cases

Contested custody cases have to be settled by the court. If the parents cannot agree on custody on their own or with the help of attorneys or a mediator, the judge has to decide who will get custody. Because someone unfamiliar with your family will have to decide—usually with very little information or time spent with you—there are many factors the judge must consider to keep decisions fair and informed. Parental fitness is one of these factors.

Fit to Parent

Parental fitness refers to a parent’s capacity to parent the child and provide the minimum standard of care. Typically, the court assumes parents are fit to parent unless there is evidence to dispute it. In heated custody battles, it is not uncommon for one parent to claim the other is unfit to gain custody. Once a parent’s fitness is called into question, the court will ask for evidence to substantiate the claim. Parental fitness can be hard to disprove, and the court determines a parent’s fitness on a case by case basis. Thus, some factors will be considered to determine whether the parent has the capacity to parent the child.

Measuring Capacity

To evaluate a parent’s fitness, the judge may order the parent undergo a comprehensive evaluation. This may include a thorough review of criminal, medical, and court records. The evaluation will also involve a review of the parent’s home environment to ensure the home is a safe place for a child to live or spend time. Other methods used to assess parental fitness include interviews, observations of parent-child interactions, and informational meetings. As would be expected, a parental fitness evaluation can add many months to your custody case. These measures are used not to determine whether a parent is a good parent or a bad parent, but whether they have the basic capacity to parent, with or without improvement efforts.

Whenever facing claims of unfit parenting, you should speak with an experienced New Jersey child custody attorney. These claims can be hard to prove, but you should still prepare means to disprove them as well. An attorney can help you build a strong defense against such a claim and increase your chance of a favorable outcome in your custody case.

Custody battles can be stressful, but the knowledgeable attorneys at the Williams Law Group, LLC have the experience needed to defend your rights as a parent and protect your child’s best interests. Located in Short Hills, New Jersey, Williams Law Group, LLC provides compassionate and dedicated legal services to Union, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties, and the surrounding areas. Our knowledgeable attorneys handle divorce and family law, child custody, and child abuse/neglect cases. Call our office at (908) 810-1083, email us at, or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation and ultimately get you connected with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.


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