Q: What steps do I need to take to prove I am a fit parent?
Me and my child’s father have split up. He has approached me with wanting to go to court and or mediation because he doesn’t feel I am giving him enough time with our son. He has had him around some people who are not safe and that I do not trust I have asked him not to but he continues to do it. He has called me unfit for living with my mother, which he does also. What do I need to do to prove I am a fit parent and see about getting his visits either supervised or some restrictions on who he is allowed to have around my son?
A: If you and the father were not married when the child was born, then he currently has no rights to see the child unless he goes to court. Tennessee is what is commonly referred to as a “Mother’s state”. This simply means that when children are born out of wedlock, the father has no rights to parent the child. Thus, until he takes you to court, you could refuse him any or all visitation he requests.
There are a multitude of factors in the best interest of the Child Analysis that a court would consider in determining who to make the primary residential parent. These include:
- The location of the parents' residences and the child's need for stability
- The strength, nature, and stability of the child's relationship with each parent
- Which parent has consistently performed the majority of parenting responsibilities relating to the daily needs of the child
- Each parent's past and potential for future performance of parenting responsibilities
- The willingness and ability of each of the parents to encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and and the other parent
- The likelihood of each parent to honor and facilitate court ordered parenting arrangements and rights. The court will also consider a history of refusal by either parent to allow visitation in violation of a court order.
- Refusal by either parent to attend a court ordered parent education seminar
- The disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education and other necessary care
- The degree to which a parent has been the primary caregiver, defined as the parent who has taken the greater responsibility for performing parental responsibilities
- The love, affection, and emotional ties existing between each parent and the child
- The emotional needs and developmental level of the child
- The moral, physical, mental and emotional fitness of each parent as it relates to their ability to parent the child
- The child's interaction and interrelationships with siblings, other relatives and step relatives, and mentors, as well as the child's involvement with the child's physical surroundings, school, or other significant activities;
- The importance of continuity in the child's life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment;
- Evidence of physical or emotional abuse to the child, to the other parent or to any other person.
- The character and behavior of any other person who resides in or frequents the home of a parent and such person's interactions with the child
- The reasonable preference of the child if twelve (12) years of age or older. The court may hear the preference of a younger child upon request. The preference of older children should normally be given greater weight than those of younger children
- Each parent's employment schedule
- Any other factors deemed relevant by the court.
From these facts, it also sounds like the father should be paying you child support if he is not already. You may want to speak with your local child support enforcement office.
You may want to consider consulting with an experienced family law attorney to discuss your situation in further detail.
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