What Is Considered an Unstable Home for a Child in California?

What Is Considered an Unstable Home for a Child in California?

The safety of children comes first for most people. Unfortunately, not everyone follows the best safety guidelines for children, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Whenever a child is put in a dangerous situation, it is important that they get the help and support they need. Understanding what an unstable home looks like and what options there are can help empower you to help children who may be in need.

Unstable Homes

It may seem easy to attach the term “unstable” to any situation in which day-to-day living may differ from our own standards of what “normal” is. However, the term is actually defined as a home where a child suffers from or is exposed to any behavior that puts a child’s health, safety, or general well-being at risk, including:

  • Domestic violence
  • Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Substance abuse

To determine if a home is unstable, family law courts will look at the evidence and determine whether the home they are in is suitable or not. This could modify the living arrangements by removing the child from the home, assigning supervised visitation, or reducing the amount of time the child is in the home. A child’s safety is determined by whether their basic needs are being met by the provision of food and water and if they are in a safe place to live.

If a child is suspected of being in an unsafe home, social services may be asked to step in and investigate. According to the Children’s Act of 1989, every child has a right to be protected from abuse, exploitation, neglect, and unsafe homes. This is the driving force behind child services. If they deem that a home fails to meet these requirements, they could then remove the child from the home.

Characteristics of an Unstable Home

There are four key categories that help determine if a child is in an unsafe home. These include:

  • Neglect: Neglect can take many different forms, including physical, mental, emotional, medical, and educational. When a parent fails to sufficiently provide these, they are neglecting a child’s rights and basic needs. Ignoring the needs of a child based on these factors could prove that the child is in an unstable home.
  • Abuse: Like neglect, abuse can occur in different ways. However, it escalates when the abuse is physical, mental, or sexual, or when it is allowed to form through substance addiction. When these factors present themselves, the child is deemed to be in an unstable home because it is no longer safe for them. Even if the abuse is not directed at the child, the exposure alone puts the child at both immediate and long-term risk.
  • Safety Risk: Endangering a child is problematic for many reasons. The endangerment could be from direct action, or it could be through exposure to dangerous surroundings. This could include illegal activity from the parent or the company that is allowed to be around the child if they pose a threat. This could also occur if the parent is extensively ill, and the child is required to perform parental duties that expose them to dangerous situations.
  • Abandonment: If the child is consistently left alone for extended periods of time at an age determined to be too young to do so, then that could be considered abandonment. This could be particularly harmful in homes with a single parent, where the child is left to themselves because the parent is always working.

These situations, among others, can become contentious points between separated parents or other family members that want to see the child in the best situation possible. Unfortunately, many of the situations are left to outside interpretation. Because of this, the details of the case should be discussed with an attorney who can help make sense of the evidence from a legal standpoint.


Q: What Does CPS Look for in a Home Visit in California?

A: When performing a home visit, social services will look to determine the child’s overall safety and health conditions. This includes looking at the child’s sleeping arrangements, the availability of food, and the amount of clothing the child has access to. All these factors help provide the basic care needed by a child.

Q: What Makes a Home Unstable in California?

A: The instability of a home is more than just saying a child is unsafe. A child should have a home that provides safety and basic needs for survival. The home environment is unfit for the child if it:

  • Endangers the child
  • Exposes them to physical abuse or neglect
  • Leaves them alone for extended periods of time

In these situations, the child may be removed from the home.

Q: What Makes a Parent Unfit in California?

A: When a parent refuses or is unable to provide safe living conditions for a child, or the basic needs that they require, they are deemed unfit. However, to prove this, there must be more than an accusation, and it must be proven that they are neglecting the needs of the child or endangering them.

Q: What Does a Social Service Agent Do at a Home Visit in California?

A: A social services agent is in charge of interviewing the parent or caregiver in the home. The agent will investigate their ability to provide a stable and safe home for the child. They will also determine the number of hours that a parent can devote to the care of the child and the types of services the parent needs to help with the necessities of the child’s care.

Family Law Attorney in California

Stable homes should be without question for any child. Unfortunately, through direct intention, accident, or vendetta, a parent could find themselves amid accusations of an unsafe home. Conversely, they may wish to accuse someone else of improperly caring for a child. Regardless of which side you are on, you should have the help of experienced and knowledgeable attorneys who can support your case. At Khalaf Law Group, our attorneys are here to help. Contact our offices today.

About Ted Khalaf

As you maneuver the difficult process of divorce and custody, it is essential that you are supported by a team of legal experts well versed in California specific Divorce and Family Law. For well over a decade, Khalaf Law Group have been serving clients across Southern California in all areas of Divorce and Family Law. With an exceptional track record of courtroom successes, Khalaf Law Group take great pride in providing their valued clients with the knowledge and information they require to maintain peace of mind and a positive outcome in their case.

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