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How the Arizona court determines parental fitness

After months or years of serious problems, you may be among many other Arizona parents who decided to file for divorce. You may understandably be worried about how that decision will affect your children's lives. Then again, in some ways, you might be thinking they'll be better off in the long run.

Filing for divorce means you must resolve numerous issues so the judge overseeing your case can issue a final decree. Such issues likely include topics such as property division, child support and custody or visitation. If the latter two issues concern you because you believe your co-parent is unfit, you'll have to prove that to the court, which can be quite challenging. Knowing where to seek support for you and your kids throughout the process is the first step toward achieving your goals.

Evidence that may help prove your case

No matter how contentious things may have gotten between you and your spouse during marriage, such issues don't necessarily mean he or she is an unfit parent. If you make that claim in court, the judge will want to see evidence that substantiates your accusations because, in most cases, the court believes children are better off in shared custody arrangements. The following list includes factors that suggest a parent is unfit for custody:

  • If your ex has a substance abuse problem, it may have been a leading factor toward the cause of your divorce. This type of problem would also raise concerns regarding parental fitness, but you must be able to show evidence that the parent in question has a drug or alcohol problem that would impede his or her ability to care for your children.
  • Any signs of emotional, physical or sexual abuse would be strong evidence to convince a judge to rule that a parent is unfit. In certain situations, a judge might order supervised visits only; in others, he or she may prohibit all contact between parent and children.
  • Written documentation or courtroom testimony from a physician, psychologist or other licensed family counselor can add weight to your claim that your ex's presence is a detriment to your children.
  • Medical files may also serve as evidence in some cases.
  • If you have photographs, videos or other evidence, such as online posts from social media sites, that add weight to your allegations that your co-parent should not have custody, you'll want to bring such issues to the court's immediate attention, as well.

Such situations can be emotionally upsetting for you and your children. When trying to prove that a parent is unfit for custody or visitation, it's critical to try to remain calm and to organize documents and other evidence so as to present as strong a case as possible.

Who can help?

If you know someone who has gone through a similar experience, it can be helpful to discuss your case with him or her to gain support and encouragement as you try to protect your children's best interests. Many Arizona parents in similar situations ask experienced family law attorneys to act on their behalves in court, which typically increases the chances of obtaining a favorable outcome.

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