Criminal Charges and Child Custody
If a judge believes that a past criminal record might affect a parent’s ability to be a good parent, it can significantly impact their custody and visitation rights. A judge's responsibility in a child custody case is to ensure that all decisions regarding custody and visitation are made by taking into account the best interests of the child.
Violent crimes, which might lead to physical harm of the child, or substance abuse crimes, which may lead to child neglect, are most worrisome to a judge.
A parent who is convicted of the felonies outlined below runs the risk of losing all custodial rights. They would probably be limited to only supervised visitation or, in sporadic cases, be denied visitation altogether.
Felonies That Prevent Child Custody
- Aggravated assault
- Any crime of a sexual nature
Charged vs. Convicted of a Felony
There is a difference between being charged with a crime and being convicted of a crime. When someone is charged with a crime, they are accused of a wrongdoing that has not been proven yet A conviction means that a court has found a person guilty of committing a crime.
Courts will put less weight on a charge vs. a conviction. Depending on the severity of the charges, one parent may file for a temporary custody order or emergency custody order until the case is resolved.
Questions the Court Will Ask
There are a variety of factors a judge will consider when deciding how relevant a parent’s criminal history is to their custody and visitation case:
Who was the victim of the crime?
Was it one of the parent’s own children? The court can, and usually will, limit custody and visitation rights if a parent has caused emotional or physical harm to one of their children in the past. Was it another child? This situation would also be worrisome to a judge if a parent has hurt any child in the past.
What type of crime was it?
Previous DUI charges or illegal drug use will be extremely worrisome to a judge because this is behavior that directly impacts the parent’s ability to care for their children. Parents with previous convictions of illegal drug use or abuse of alcohol may have to undergo routine drug testing to ensure they are substance-free.
How recent is the crime?
A prior DUI conviction from a parent’s youth will have less impact on custody and visitation than a DUI conviction in the past year.
Was it an isolated incident?
Even if a parent’s crimes are not violent, if they are repeat offenders, it raises concerns about their judgment and ability to follow court orders. (Custody and visitation agreements are court orders too.) Can the parent provide a stable living environment for a child if they are frequently in and out of jail?
If you have concerns about you or a co-parent's criminal activities and how they might impact child custody and visitation, it is vital to talk to a local attorney.