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Both Parents Found Unfit by Court, What Then?

by | Jun 15, 2021 | Child Abuse, NY

When two parents separate or get a divorce, who the child will primarily live with and who gets to spend time with the child in what types of environments must be decided. Often, this isn’t exceedingly complex; if one parent is considered unfit or a danger to the child, they will simply live with the other. However, there are some family legal cases where the capacity of both parents to care for their child is in question.

Here’s what you should know about how courts decide whether a parent is unfit or not and who to call when you need family legal advocacy you can trust.

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What Is an Unfit Parent?

In general terms, an “unfit parent” is someone that a court of law has deemed unable, or unsafe, to care for their own child. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as if there is a history of domestic violence against the child. Typically, in court cases where a child’s welfare must be seriously considered, a guardian ad litem is appointed. This is an attorney specifically for the child and represents the child’s best interests only. They review a number of things before making a recommendation to the court regarding custody and visitation.

Factors Long Island Family Courts Use to Determine If a Parent Is Unfit

The following indicators are the most commonly considered when evaluating if a parent may be unfit to care for their child:

  • Disciplinary measures used against the child. Cruel or inhumane disciplinary tactics may result in a parent being named unfit.
  • Setting age-appropriate boundaries. Courts will think twice about awarding custody to a parent who allows their child to have unfettered access to R-rated movies and other inappropriate material.
  • Parent-child communication. A judge is more likely to award primary custody to the parent that has the best communication and relationship with the child.
  • How involved each parent has been in the child’s welfare up to this point. If one parent has been substantially more involved with the child’s daily care, the court will likely favor them over the other parent without compelling evidence to the contrary.
  • If one or both parents have a history of child abuse or domestic violence. A history of domestic violence — whether against the parent’s own child or another — is a red flag for Long Island family courts.
  • If the child has been allowed to witness violence in the home. Furthermore, if there was violence in the home and the child was allowed to witness it, the court will determine how each parent played a role.
  • If one or both parents have a history of past or active substance abuse. Substance use disorders can make it difficult for a parent to care for their child and may require residential treatment, during which a child may need to be placed into foster care.
  • If one or both parents are diagnosed with psychiatric illnesses that potentially impact their ability to care for their child. Serious mental illnesses that cause confusion, memory loss, and other debilitating symptoms may make it impossible for a parent to safely care for — and keep track of — their child or their child’s activities.
  • How the child feels about the parent. Regardless of the child’s age, their feelings toward each parent will be thoroughly evaluated for unhealthy patterns. A child will not be forced to stay with a parent they are clearly uncomfortable with.

What Happens If a Court Believes Both of a Child’s Parents Are Unfit?

If a guardian ad litem recommends to the court that neither parent are capable of adequately caring for the child, the child may be placed with social services until a foster home can be secured. Parents may be able to meet certain court orders over time to gain visitation and eventually custody back of their children, depending on the circumstances of the family’s situation.

When Extended Family Members Can Step In

Grandparents may be able to petition the court for an evaluation of the child’s parents if there is substantial evidence to warrant doing so. Grandparents do have some rights to visitation and a relationship with their grandchildren under New York law, however, this isn’t always cut and dry. In some cases, a court may only award grandparents with visitation if it’s in the best interests of the child. However, in cases where a grandparent has petitioned for custody of the child due to the unfitness of both parents, a court may award them with full legal and physical custody of the child. Depending on the case, this may or may not be permanent.

Contact a Long Island Divorce and Family Lawyer Today for Help

At Hornberger Verbitsky, PC, we understand how painful it can be to be considered an unfit parent when you’re trying your hardest just to survive. We also know how difficult the choice is for grandparents or other entities to step in for the welfare of the child. No matter what side of the issue you’re on, you need a Long Island family lawyer who will treat your case with the sensitivity and care it warrants. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule your free initial consultation at 631-923-1910 or fill out the short form below. 

 

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Darlene Iglio
Darlene Iglio
15:27 30 Jul 22
Robert has been my attorney for 14+ years. Through the years he has taken every call, and responded to every email, even when we were not dealing with an active court matter. Most recently, he, and his amazing team, did everything to see me through a lengthy and draining child support modification. His experience with Divorce, and Family Court, matters makes him extremely knowledgeable; therefore, if he doesn’t feel you can benefit from an action, he will advise you as much. He is not in this business to charge you fees just for the sake of making money. He will listen to you, take your feelings into consideration, and then take the time to explain how the Law works. The Courts do not care about your feelings but he, and his entire firm, genuinely do care about you AND work to obtain the best possible outcome! All the while, truly understanding these matters are very difficult to go through emotionally AND the financial impact they have on you. I highly recommend Robert and his firm… you will not be disappointed.
86 Godhand
86 Godhand
00:41 30 Jul 22
Mr Hornberger is an absolute amazing lawyer. He helped me on every level weather it be answering emails extremely fast, always called me back right aways and never acted frustrated towards me and my thousand questions. Mr Hornberger is extremely personable, caring and smart. I would highly highly recommend him to anyone especially someone like me who has no idea what court is going to be like. Again a great person and an even better lawyer

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Darlene Iglio
Darlene Iglio
15:27 30 Jul 22
Robert has been my attorney for 14+ years. Through the years he has taken every call, and responded to every email,... even when we were not dealing with an active court matter. Most recently, he, and his amazing team, did everything to see me through a lengthy and draining child support modification. His experience with Divorce, and Family Court, matters makes him extremely knowledgeable; therefore, if he doesn’t feel you can benefit from an action, he will advise you as much. He is not in this business to charge you fees just for the sake of making money. He will listen to you, take your feelings into consideration, and then take the time to explain how the Law works. The Courts do not care about your feelings but he, and his entire firm, genuinely do care about you AND work to obtain the best possible outcome! All the while, truly understanding these matters are very difficult to go through emotionally AND the financial impact they have on you. I highly recommend Robert and his firm… you will not be disappointed.read more
86 Godhand
86 Godhand
00:41 30 Jul 22
Mr Hornberger is an absolute amazing lawyer. He helped me on every level weather it be answering emails extremely fast,... always called me back right aways and never acted frustrated towards me and my thousand questions. Mr Hornberger is extremely personable, caring and smart. I would highly highly recommend him to anyone especially someone like me who has no idea what court is going to be like. Again a great person and an even better lawyerread more
Jenny Allen
Jenny Allen
13:26 18 Jun 22
Mr. Hornberger was so helpful to me in a recent consultation. He gave me his time generously, listened patiently,... offered clear counsel, and said I didn't actually need further legal services in a particular matter, which I really appreciated.read more
Elizabeth Martin
Elizabeth Martin
21:06 25 Jan 22
The team at Hornberger Verbitsky made me feel at ease after I retained them after a 3 year contested divorce process. I... like their approach with how they educate you on ways to get the best outcome in your divorce. Mr. Hornberger made me feel heard and was compassionate to my case while also being aggressive in the courtroom to help me get the most positive outcome. He prevented my case from having to go to trial and he closed the deal in my long drawn out emotional divorce. I was happy that I retained him and would recommend him to anyone that is going through a high conflict divorce.read more
rrezarta lekaj
rrezarta lekaj
20:47 24 Nov 21
Christine is truly the best there is. She is beyond professional, personable, genuine, extremely trusting, and has made... such a stressful and emotional time for my family and I easier to get through. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for your guidance, your support, and being there every step of the way. I would highly recommend Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. to anyone that is in need for legal advice - you will be in the best hands.read more
Janine Martello D'onofrio
Janine Martello D'onofrio
21:00 02 Oct 21
Rob and Christine are the very best out there!I can not say enough about them. They both have helped me so much in... different matters throughout the last several years . They have gone over and beyond!I highly recommend this law firm !read more
Tara Tocci
Tara Tocci
20:59 17 Sep 21
I called to make an appointment for a consultation to discuss a mediated divorce, the office was fantastic with getting... me a prompt appointment. When going in all my questions were asked and I left feeling comfortable in my decision to move forward in using the Hornberger/Verbitsky office. Despite a pandemic going on the office still worked diligently to get my papers filed and my divorce complete in a timely manner. Highly recommend!read more
cristina romero
cristina romero
20:17 17 Sep 21
Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C were phenomenal in every way. Robert was very genuine, patient and professional. Walking in,... I had no idea what to expect but he went above and beyond to explain the entire process thoroughly. He guided and informed me of my rights. Patty was amazing, she answered every question I had no matter how many times I called, she was very understanding. I highly recommend Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. Even if its just for questions on how to navigate this process.read more
Kerri
Kerri
16:57 17 Sep 21
Rob and his team are by far one of the greatest! Patty is amazing and will make sure all of your questions are... addressed and responded to. Rob and his team made a very tough time in my life as simple as possible. Rob is extremely knowledgeable and very empathetic. Patty was a pleasure to work with and I would recommend this firm to anyone that needs a great divorce attorney. Thank you for all of your help!read more
Angela Thearle
Angela Thearle
00:21 07 Aug 21
Hornberger law was the best choice I made when I needed to go to family court with my ex for custody of my children.... They were there at any time when I neeeded them. Going through a custody battle can be a huge emotional rollercoaster and very painful. They helped me through it and made it less painful and heartbreaking. And I got the outcome plus more than I expectedread more
Tammy Granville
Tammy Granville
11:49 04 Jul 21
Everyone was very professional. Never had to call to get an update on my case. Someone always updated me on a regular... basis.read more
LilMissPerfct Dessie
LilMissPerfct Dessie
06:46 11 Feb 21
I am a graduate of Norland English nanny college. I thank God every day that Mr. Robert Hornberger protected my clients... in the legal ways i could not. Children are a blessing not a blender to be fought over during some silly spat!read more
Anastasia R
Anastasia R
22:45 17 Dec 20
I went to see Rob for a modification for my child custody agreement to relocate, I can honestly say that working with... Rob and Christine has been the best experience. I cannot recommend them enough I only wish I had seen them sooner. They are prompt with communication, and they are honest which I appreciate so much. They do not give you fake promises and they do their best to fight for what you want which they do amazingly well! You can tell they are passionate about what they do and care about their clients. A very important aspect of lawyer client relationship for me is an open line of communication, the anxiety of the unknown always gets the best of us. The fact they were always available whether it be phone call or email to answer any question was extremely comforting and exactly what I needed. I am not well versed with laws and regulation so knowing I had Rob and his partners there when I was unsure or conflicted was extremely needed and greatly appreciated.When it comes to family court it's never easy but having Rob and his partner by my side I felt extremely comfortable and he helped me have realistic expectations. Please TRUST HIM!! If you're looking for a lawyer (at least for my end from child custody/Family Court) don't look any further you will not be disappointed. I hope to never have to use them again but in the event I have to, they are going to be my forever first call.read more
A Google User
A Google User
15:42 16 Sep 20
I hired Robert to handle a child custody and child support matter. He was prompt and professional and was able to... achieve a result that 3 prior attorneys could not. He and his staff made a stressful situation easy. I highly recommend his office.read more
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Ann Masten
17:48 12 May 20
I am a paralegal in an unrelated field of law. I phoned Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. today intending to refer a client... to their office. Instead (and despite that we are the midst of the present crisis), Mr. Hornberger himself graciously accommodated my questions over the telephone, and was generous with his time and adroit in his response, saving our client a small fortune in unnecessary legal fees. I have not had any similar experience, in which counsel was so generous with his expertise, in 22+ years of interacting with prominent, local attorneys, and the client is overjoyed. Based on this experience, I would now whole -heartedly recommend this firm as trusted professionals to any client requiring a firm expert in family law and related legal issues.read more
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Everett Roberts
14:30 18 Mar 20
Going through a divorce was very challenging and emotional. Searching for an attorney can be challenging as well when... you consider everything that is at stake. The choice I made to work with Rob Hornberger was surely the best choice available. His professionalism, expertise, and understanding made him and the entire team perfectly suited to achieve the outcomes I desired. Rob was always available to answer my questions and give me advice and legal considerations that affected my situation. The support I received from his staff was exemplary as well. The staff was courteous, kind, and also very professional. Thank you so much Rob and team for a worry free experience.read more
Annemarie Cusumano
Annemarie Cusumano
21:41 17 Mar 20
Being in family court especially when your children are on the line is extremely emotional and stressful but working... with Robert and Christine put me at ease and made the process as pleasant as a situation like that can be. I have a now 3 year old daughter (who is the most important person in my life) and I've been working with them for over two years since my daughter was 7 months old, the case has been up and down and through it all Rob and Christine have never given up. My original case was due to a neglect charge. Cps is not easy to work with, but Rob and Christine were vigilant and I ended up getting my daughter back within 8 months and did not have to plead guilty to the neglect. Currently I am in family court to figure out a custody agreement. They are professional, empathetic, and patient. They have always explained everything thoroughly, informed me of all my options and advised me of what my best option would be. They always respond quickly when I contact them with questions or concerns and most importantly they fight for me in court and don't give up even when things get rough. Before hiring Rob and Christine I met with other attorneys who did not make me feel confident or comfortable at all about my case, so I am very grateful to have found Rob and Christine and to be represented by such great attorneys. I highly recommend them for any family court matters and will definitely continue to use them in the future if needed.read more
Randi Gottlieb
Randi Gottlieb
18:47 03 Mar 20
Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. - Mr. Robert Hornberger and his staff are beyond professional, they quickly gave me my... consultation appointment, and helped me with an after-Divorce issue. Mr. Hornberger was empathetic and explained to me what I should expect. Mr. Hornberger was extremely professional and advised me of my options, he helped me proceed with accurate and smart decisions. I wish I had Mr. Hornberger and his highly recommended staff when I was getting divorced. I would highly recommend Robert and his staff to anyone who is getting a divorce or in need of help with situations after the divorce!read more
Rob Spielmann
Rob Spielmann
22:15 27 Feb 20
They made our process so easy. They were there to answer and help with any questions that came up. Very friendly
Ashley Hubner
Ashley Hubner
20:30 14 Feb 20
Navigating my divorce was a challenging experience to say the least, but I was supported and guided every step of the... way by my attorney, Robert. With the daunting task of hiring a divorce lawyer, I knew I would need someone with the right combination of knowledge, compassion and integrity. Robert has a strong background in family law, sincere character and direct communication to be superior to the others. He and his staff were professional and caring. I always felt I was in good hands. I highly recommend the Law Offices Hornberger and Verbitsky for the legal expertise, compassion and understanding of the many complex facets associated with divorce.read more
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Thomas Livingston
21:31 26 Jan 20
Robert and Christine are the epitome of professionalism. They helped us with the purchase of our new home. They were... efficient, dedicated, and focused on making our closing as seamless as possible.read more
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Sheila Vasata
23:35 14 Jan 20
Robert Hornberger has been a friend of mine and my family for years. He has helped us all in ways that are too... numerable to mention. I went through a divorce that I don’t think I could’ve done if I didn’t have Robert by my side. He is vivacious, motivated, knowledgeable, and has an extreme desire to succeed and excel...and he does! He goes over and above for all of his clientele. I would recommend his law firm to anybody who is looking for a Great Lawyer with integrity!read more
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