What's the Criteria for an Unfit Parent in QLD Family Law?

In Queensland, there are several factors that the court will look at to determine if a parent is unfit to care for their child. The implications for the parents involved are serious, as the courts have the ability to intervene and remove custody from one or both parents. It is always the responsibility of the court to make decisions that are in the best interests of the child. These decisions are often commonplace during divorce proceedings, or if the child’s wellbeing is investigated. We break down the most important criteria that Qld uses to determine if a parent is unfit.


What Is The QLD Criteria For An ‘Unfit’ Parent?

A parent is deemed unfit in circumstances where the child’s physical or psychological wellbeing is at risk. In all other circumstances, the court aims to have both parents meaningfully involved in the child’s life. The court will consider both the histories and presence of:

  • Child abuse;
  • Substance abuse; or
  • Domestic violence

Histories of child and domestic abuse are very difficult to overcome and the court is unlikely to offer a parent with a record of child abuse anything other than visitation rights. The court will also look unfavourably upon parents with a history of substance abuse, particularly if they’ve relapsed and could present as a danger to the child.

Other factors that are taken into consideration include:

  • The parent’s decision-making for the child;
  • Communication between parent and child;
  • Aggressive psychiatric concerns;
  • Living conditions of the parents and child; and
  • How available the parent is for their child

Ensuring age-appropriate decisions, good communication, high living standards and involvement in your child’s day-to-day life is essential to being a responsible parent in the eyes of the law. In the event of severe psychiatric concerns, the court will look for evidence of mental health care and testimony to ensure that the child is safe.


What Happens If A Parent Is Deemed Unfit?

If a parent has been deemed unfit, the court will instate a parenting order. A parenting order is a set of conditions from the court detailing the parenting arrangements for the child. In the instance of one parent being unfit, the court could order:

  • a sole parenting order where custody is removed from the unfit parent;
  • ongoing negative drug tests; or
  • limited or supervised visitations

The order will remain in place until a change is formally made by a court or a parenting plan is established with both parties.


What Happens If An Unfit Parent Fails To Comply With A Parenting Order?

A court will penalise someone for failing to comply with a parenting order without a reasonable excuse. The penalties for contradicting a parenting order are listed in Division 13A in the Family Law Act 1975. Penalties include varying the original parenting order, a fine and imprisonment. If a parenting order has restricted an unfit parent access to a child and they are relocated from the country without consent of the primary caregiver, they will face a three year prison sentence.


When To Seek Legal Advice About An Unfit Parent in QLD

If you are wishing to apply for a parenting order, you should seek legal advice about your rights and responsibilities. Family Dispute Resolution (FDR) is always recommended to come to a parenting agreement before going through the court system. You can find more information about parenting plans in our post here. These save parents from emotional and financial expenditure to reach a suitable agreement. In the event that you still wish to proceed with filing for a parenting order, you will need to ensure you gather material evidence and witness testimony as to support your case.


Our Family Lawyers Can Assist With Advice and Representation at Pullos Lawyers

Contact our Family Law professionals at Pullos Lawyers to enquire more about what it means to be an unfit parent in Queensland and how it applies to your situation. Whether you’re facing a parenting order or wishing to apply for one, our lawyers can offer expert legal advice, representation and guide you through the court process. You can also find free information and frequently asked questions in our blog posts regarding complex topics including child support, property settlement and domestic violence. To get in touch, use our enquiry form or call our Brisbane office on (07) 3144 1641 or our Gold Coast office on (07) 5526 3646.