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What if I Believe My Spouse is Unfit to Take Care of Our Children?

If you believe that your spouse (or former spouse) is unfit to care for your children, there are a few possible routes to take. The route that you take will depend on the urgency and severity of the situation. If the situation does not require immediate attention, you can file a “Motion for Modification of Parenting Time”. If the situation is more urgent and needs to be remedied immediately, you can file a “Motion to Restrict Parenting Time” or you can call Child Protective Services (CPS). You can learn more about each of these options below.

Motion for Modification of Parenting Time

There are a few different routes to take depending on the severity of the situation. If your concerns do not require immediate attention, you can file a “Motion for Modification of Parenting Time” as discussed above. This motion may be filed every two years or as often as necessary, as long as you can prove that circumstances have changed. The change in circumstances could be a variety of things, including, but not limited to, moving, use of drugs or illegal substances, or the creation of an unsafe situation for children. In proving this change of circumstances, it may be helpful to hire a third-party investigator, called a Child and Family Investigator or Parental Responsibilities Evaluator. To be clear, this is not an immediate solution and will take a minimum of 3 months to complete. Following a minimum of 3 months, the court may deny the modification and elect to keep the parenting plan consistent or modify the plan in line with the requested modification or in any way the court sees fit to modify the parenting time agreement.

Motion to Restrict Parenting Time

If your situation is more urgent, there are two roads that will lead to a quicker resolution from the court. One of these options is to file a “Motion to Restrict Parenting Time”. This motion must include the reasons that you believe the children will be endangered, either physically or emotionally, by remaining in the care of the opposing parent. The court is required to set a hearing date within 14 days of filing this motion, making it significantly quicker than filing a “Motion for Modification of Parenting Time”. When the date of the hearing comes around, you should make sure to bring any evidence you have that your children are not safe with the opposing parent. It is important that this evidence is not just what your children have told you, as this can be considered “hearsay” and may not be admissible evidence. If the court finds that you are correct and the other parent is physically or emotionally endangering the child, there may be steps or restrictions put into place that the opposing parent must go through if they want to regain any parenting time. For example, if the opposing parent has been using drugs, the court may order a rehabilitation program before they are allowed to regain any parenting time. The court can also restrict or reduce the opposing parent’s parenting time. It is important to remember that this is a very serious claim and should not be filed without base. If this motion is found to be baseless or vengeful, the court may require you to pay the opposing parent’s attorney fees.

Child Protective Services

The second option for a more urgent case is contacting Child Protective Services (CPS). CPS is a government agency that investigates claims of child abuse or neglect. This is the most serious action and will result in the most immediate response. Before getting more into this process, it is important to note that calling CPS on the opposing parent will also invite CPS to investigate you. The organization is meant to make decisions in the best interest of the child and they cannot do this without investigating every aspect of your children’s lives.  This investigation will include interviewing both parents, various witnesses, and the children themselves. CPS will generally make findings of the best situation for the children without initiating action through the court. In more severe cases, however, CPS will initiate action through the courts called a “Dependency and Neglect Action”. This may result in the child being removed from the unsafe environment, supervised visitation, reintegration therapy, substance abuse monitoring, or any action that the court feels is appropriate to the situation.