As with any child custody case, the courts will review each parent’s background, including their criminal background. The bottom line is that the courts will always make the best decisions for the child, regardless of each parent’s current and future role.
Suppose viable evidence presents itself to the court, whether through a criminal record or other less appealing characteristics. In that case, they may decide it is not in the child’s best interest for that parent to be in the child’s life. That said, they will lean towards keeping both parents in the child’s life, regardless of opinions that may not have merit on either side of the spectrum, as they protect the best interests of the children involved at all costs.
Are all Crimes Viewed the Same in Child Custody?
The simple answer is no. Each crime on a record will be closely scrutinized to determine how it may affect the abilities of each parent to keep their child safe and promote a loving and productive environment for the child when they are in their care. As you can probably assume, a felony conviction will not be viewed the same as a misdemeanor in this case.
Suppose charges include violent behavior for one of the parents. In that case, chances can derail the judge’s decision to allow the children to spend time with that parent, mainly if this includes violence towards a child.
Suppose the charges include a DUI from several years ago or a white-collar crime a decade ago. In that case, these may not negatively affect the judge’s decision. However, they will still look at each charge through a microscope to determine if one-time charges will affect that partner’s ability to parent effectively.
What Factors will the Judge Consider?
One of the main aspects that judges will review is if your charge is violent or involves children (such as abuse or neglect) will likely result in no custody. Charges that include child endangerment or are sexual involving a child, for instance, will probably sway the judge to determine that children are not protected and safe in your care. As discussed above, if your charges are based on a DUI and are not recent, this may help the judge overlook this charge.
Timing is everything as well. If the charges you have on your record are from when you were much younger or before you became a parent, they may be overlooked. If your conviction was more recent or you have pending charges against you, however, this may be enough to warrant a judge to determine you are not fit for custody of your children.
Are there repeating offenses? This can show the judge that no matter the timing of the charges against you, you have not learned your lesson and could pose a threat to the child’s well-being. If you have multiple charges relating to the same type of offense, this can deter a judge from granting you custody. In some cases, even if the multiple charges aren’t related, it can prove to a judge that you have a propensity for violence or unstable actions, which can affect the child’s well-being. Therefore, you may be denied custody.
Are there mitigating factors? Suppose you have one DWI conviction from a decade ago, but that charge also included an element of violence through assault or manslaughter; this one group of offenses may be enough to disqualify you for custody in the eyes of the court.
Did you take a plea bargain during past convictions? This can also affect a decision, depending on what the original set of charges was and how it was worked out in the courts. In some cases, taking a plea bargain reflects a lesser charge on your record, but the original charges will still be reviewed to determine the final decision by the judge.
What About a New Partner in my Life?
If a new partner is directly involved in the child’s life, their criminal background will also be considered. The same logic will apply, and judges want to ensure that your new partner is fit to be around children and look out for their best interests moving forward.
If they find evidence of violence or repeated offenses in your new partner’s history, it may be difficult for you to obtain custody as the parent.
What if I Have Completed my Sentence, are Those Charges Still Considered?
This is a gray area. Suppose you were sentenced to a few years in prison and completed your sentence without issues. This can be a positive mark for a judge, but it will also bring to light the perspective that since you were incarcerated, you didn’t have the opportunity to commit repeat offenses. Each case will be scrutinized to determine your propensity for breaking the law or putting your child in danger in the future.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me?
Don’t leave a matter as crucial as child custody in the hands of someone without vast knowledge and experience in these cases. It is in our nature as humans to protect our children, so we understand how important this subject is to you. Let us be your fierce advocate and work tirelessly for you as we have with past clients to protect their rights, their best interests, and the best interests of their children.
Contact our offices today at (254) 523-4446 to learn more about how we can best assist you.