Your child’s wellbeing is your number one priority. Even though you did not get physical custody of your child after your divorce, you still make an effort to be aware of their living situation. Lately, you’ve been noticing that your co-parent could be doing a much better job. But is that because parenting is a struggle? Or is it because your co-parent is unfit?

The definitions of child neglect, child abandonment and child abuse can help you distinguish a struggling parent from an unfit one.

Child Neglect

A child needs shelter, clothing, food, medical care and an education to grow into a successful and healthy citizen. These needs are basic, but specific. For instance, adequate clothing would mean that the parent provides the child with warm winter clothes. An adequate shelter would have heat, electricity and running water.

When a child doesn’t receive these things from their parent, the parent is neglecting the child. There could be many reasons why the parent is unable to give these things to their child. Money could be an issue, and so could substance abuse.

Child Abandonment

When a parent doesn’t take care of their child at all for 30 days or more, the state of Georgia views that as child abandonment. The parent would not be providing a home, food or clothes for their child if they have abandoned them.

If you believe that your co-parent has abandoned your child, it is important that you take action immediately. You can do so by filing for an abandonment warrant in your county.

Child Abuse

Child abuse, by definition, is any action that harms a minor. That action could be physical, mental, sexual or emotional. If a parent puts a child to be in a harmful situation, either caused by the parent or by a third party, they are abusing the child.

Mental and emotional abuse may not be what you picture when you think of abuse, but they are still serious offenses. A child’s ability to become a functioning adult can be seriously impaired by an emotionally or mentally abusive parent.

If you decide that your co-parent is unfit, talk to an attorney about your next steps. Your child may not understand why you need to upset their living situation, but they will probably thank you when they get older. As their parent, it’s your responsibility to decide what’s best.