When getting a divorce a major concern is that of the welfare of minor children. Their needs, health, happiness, benefit and well-being must be considered and put above other considerations. After all, children cannot address these issues for themselves and we as parents and adults need to ensure children’s needs are met and their welfare is protected. What options do you have when you believe your ex-spouse is no longer fit to be a parent? Obviously, this is not something that can or should be pursued simply because you are angry with your spouse and want to punish them. Rather, there needs to be facts, circumstances and instances that can be demonstrated to the judge evidencing that a parent is unfit. You must take the appropriate steps to put the best interests of your child in the forefront of your actions.
Under Utah law, how do you prove that a parent is unfit? If a parent is proven to be unfit are their rights terminated? In cases where sole custody is awarded to one parent, there is typically parent time that is awarded to the non-custodial parent. This time is outlined under Utah Code and varies with the specific age of the child. If a Judge or Court determines that even limited visitation may subject a child to physical or emotional harm, supervised visitation may be ordered. What if even supervised visitation is too dangerous for a child? If this is in fact true, you can seek to terminate parental rights under Section 78A-6-501 of the Utah Code which states that rights may be terminated if you can prove “that the parent is unfit or incompetent.” In order to have rights fully terminated there must be strong facts and charges proven against a parent. These include, but are not limited to: severe or chronic abuse of the child; severe or chronic abuse or neglect of other children in the household; severe psychological abuse or torture of the child; a failure to meet the child’s basic needs of housing, food, clothing and shelter; abandonment or extreme parental disinterest; deliberately exposing a child to pornography; imprisonment for such a substantial time that the child would be “deprived of a normal home for more than one year”; and proof that a child would be at risk if returned to the parent’s home.
Obviously, in most situations, the threat of termination of parental rights would be an abhorrent reality and can help push a parent to do better for the child. If this is not the case and termination is proven to be the in child’s best interest, rights can and may be terminated. It is of the utmost importance to have an experienced lawyer, with a proven history, on your side if you are seeking sole custody or even termination of parental rights. Call our office today for an in-depth review of the facts surrounding your case and to help establish what is in the best interest of your child.