Parents who allow unfit co-parents to provide unsupervised care for their child(ren) are also unfit

Posted Monday, February 14th, 2022 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Child Custody, Litigation Strategy, Not South Carolina Specific, Of Interest to Family Court Litigants, Of Interest to Family Law Attorneys

But for the human capacity for self delusions, I would find the ability of parents to claim their co-parent was unfit while they allowed that co-parent to routinely provide unsupervised care for their children to be inexplicable. Yet this claim routinely occurs. Once I note the dangers in making such allegations in a court filing, such parents immediately see the problem such claims create.

The allegations most often occur when a primary wage-earner parent seeks to leave and obtain custody from a stay-at-home parent. Such parents justify seeking custody by claiming the caretaker parent is unfit. Allegations of this unfitness generally include some combination of substance abuse, physical abuse, and serious untreated mental illness.

The dilemma in raising such claims is that it basically requires acknowledging one has knowingly subjected the children to abuse. The definition of “Child abuse or neglect” or “harm” in South Carolina’s child protective services code, S.C. Code § 63-7-20(6), indicates such abuse, neglect, or harm “occurs when the parent… inflicts or allows to be inflicted upon the child physical or mental injury or engages in acts or omissions which present a substantial risk of physical or mental injury to the child” or “fails to supply the child with adequate…supervision appropriate to the child’s age and development.” (emphasis added).

A parent who leave a child with an abusive or neglectful parent is allowing that child to be abused or neglected. Often this parent has allowed an abusive or neglectful parent to watch the child unsupervised for a period of years. “Why did you allow this to happen?,” is an extremely appropriate question that generally does not have an exculpatory answer.

When clients bring such allegations to me, I urge them to have a period of time in which they allow the other parent no unsupervised contact before seeking any court intervention. This, at least, allows one to proceed with litigation without having it appear that one’s client has blithely ignored the child abuse or neglect until seeking custody.

I understand why parents who have primary wage-earning responsibilities may let their children be cared for by irresponsible co-parents. It can be difficult to defer wage-earning responsibilities to care for one’s children when one has all the wage-earning responsibilities. But alleging one has let an unfit parent raise one’s children for months–even years–is an extremely ugly look.

One thought on Parents who allow unfit co-parents to provide unsupervised care for their child(ren) are also unfit

  1. a clay says:

    A DETAILED CLAIM, But I can see where it can be the primary impact in parenting your child. This also is accompanied with litigation that appears to harass and/or attack the other parent and not really placing the child as a first priority.

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