Child custody battles are difficult, especially when parents can't see eye to eye. But to get through proceedings and to create a harmonious co-parenting environment thereafter, parents must put their personal feelings aside and let the courts decide what's best for the child. But what happens when the court decides that the best interest of a child is to deny both parents of custody?
Although most Pennsylvania courts believe that each child is happiest in the care of both of their parents, there are some circumstances when this isn't ideal. In situations when a judge feels like both parents aren't able to properly care for the child, they'll be deemed “unfit” in Pennsylvania, and subsequently stripped of their parental rights and denied custody. In these situations, the judge usually grants custody to a legal guardian or a responsible family member.
Reasons for Custody Denials
Only sufficient evidence based on certain grounds can lead a judge to conclude that both parents are incapable of providing a safe and nurturing environment for their child. If any of the following factors exist in a case, both parents may end up losing custody of their child.
- A history of abandonment: Abandonment is constituted when a parent leaves a child in the care of someone else with no contact for at least a year in Pennsylvania.
- Mental illness: Both parents have undergone psychological evaluations and have been diagnosed with a debilitating mental illness that prevents them from properly caring for the child.
- Sexual abuse: Any and all claims of sexual abuse will result in the child being removed from the home until that place is safe. If these claims can be substantiated, the child will move to a new residence.
- Child abuse: The child is at risk for physical abuse, emotional, or psychological abuse.
- Toxic environment: The parents are unable to provide the child with a secure environment.
- A history of neglect: Most of the child's basic needs, like food, clothing, proper hygiene, etc. aren't being met.
The preference of a child is accounted for in these cases. If the child is mature enough, the judge may ask him or her about the nature of the relationship between his or her parents. This isn't, however, done in court. Typically, a statement from the child is heard in the judge's office, and it will be taken into consideration during the final decision.
Pennsylvania Family Law Attorney
In child custody disputes where you are accused of being unfit, the representation of a seasoned legal professional is required. Navigating the Pennsylvania legal process without legal advice is risky. And with so much at stake, you need the assistance of someone who can turn the odds in your favor.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm has helped parents facing accusations of unfitness prove that they're worthy of being in their child's life. Schedule a consultation today online or by phone at 888-535-3686.