The rights of parents are strongly protected in Massachusetts. Even in the event of a divorce, the court is very unlikely to revoke the rights of one party—the court usually finds that it is in the child’s best interests to maintain a relationship with both parents.
However, there are some cases in which the rights of the parent can be revoked. If a court finds a parent to be “unfit,” they have determined that the parent cannot provide substantial care for a child. Here’s what you should know about how a Massachusetts family court or juvenile court determines a parent to be unfit and how our family attorney can help—
What Constitute Parental Unfitness in Massachusetts?
There are statutory guidelines for considering parental fitness, as found in Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 210 Section 3. According to the statute, the following factors will be considered in determining parental unfitness:
- Abandonment of the child
- The child has been abused as the result of the act or omissions of the parent
- The child has been in foster care for at least six months and the parent has not maintained significant or meaningful contact during that time
- The child, who is at least age four, has been in foster care for at least 12 months and cannot be returned to the parent’s care
- The child is under age four and has been in foster care for at least six of the past 12 months and cannot be returned to the parent’s care
- The parent fails to provide proper care or custody for the child
- The child has formed a strong bond with a substitute caretaker as a result of the parent’s abandonment
- The parent has shown a lack of effort to remedy conditions that pose a risk of harm or neglect to the child
- Severe and repetitive sexual, emotional, or physical abuse of the child
- Failure to visit the child when the child is in the custody of another
- Failure to support the child when the child is in the custody of another
- A condition that makes the parent unable to provide care of the child, such as alcoholism or mental illness
- Conviction of a felony
- Pattern of assault, neglect, or misconduct that is likely to endanger the child in the future
What Will the Court Do if it Determines a Parent is Unfit?
During a hearing for parental unfitness, the court will review any and all evidence that speaks to the fitness or unfitness of a parent. If a judge finds that a parent is unfit after considering the evidence and the factors above, they may assign full custody to the other parent. In severe cases, the parental rights of the parent could be terminated.
How Can the Law Office of Heather M. Ward Help Me with My Parental Fitness Case?
If you want to make a claim for parental unfitness against another parent or need to defend yourself against such claims, the best thing to do is to hire a skilled family law attorney in Massachusetts immediately. At the Law Office of Heather M. Ward, our family law attorney will advocate for you. Call today at (617) 903-8955 or send us a message online to learn more.