How Wisconsin Defines Unfit Parents in Court

In Wisconsin, children are entitled to two legal parents as this is generally in the best interest of the child. The definition of an unfit parent is one who has been neglectful and/or abusive, failing to properly care for a child. Legally, the most common ground for involuntary termination of parental rights is abandonment.

How do I prove the other parent is unfit?

Due to the seriousness of terminating a child's relationship with his or her parents, allegations of unfit parenting are not taken lightly by the Wisconsin court system. Divorcing spouses need to carefully consider whether charges of negligence against the other parent are truly merited, or if they're the result of anger and frustration that often accompanies the end of a marriage.

The state's courts will not look kindly on parents who try to unfairly terminate the rights of the other parent as a punishment for the pain of a divorce. When possible, both parents should be involved in the child's life and have the opportunity to provide a loving environment.

Examples of Unfit Parenting

  • Child abandonment
  • Alcoholism
  • Drug addiction
  • Mental Disturbance
  • Criminal History
  • Refusing to assume responsibility for the care of a child

The courts will prioritize the safety and well being of the child in any custody situation and will consider a parent to be unfit if there is a history or the potential for putting the child in harm's way. The most common reason parental rights are terminated is due to child abandonment, which is defined as the failure of a parent to visit or communicate with the child for three months or longer, without good cause.

If there are questions surrounding the fitness of one parent and the safety of the child or children in question, the burden of proof rests with the parent making the charge. You will need to gather evidence that supports your position such as:

  • medical files documenting injuries
  • photographs and/or video files of abuse,
  • police reports and other criminal records
  • relevant correspondence, email, text messages, social media posts, etc…

If you are concerned about the safety of your child, do not hesitate to contact an experienced family law attorney. They will be able to act quickly on you and your child's behalf and determine the best course of action for your situation.


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