Criminal Charges and Child Custody

Because both parents are usually fighting for custody of their child, the entire case can turn sour and become intense quite quickly. It doesn’t take long for both parents to try and dig up dirt on the other and make allegations as a way to increase their chances of being awarded custody. The judge is going to be looking for which parent is the most fit to take care of the children, along with what will be in the child’s best interest. Bringing past criminal convictions to light can surely damage a parent’s case. If you are the parent who has a background of criminal charges, then it’s time to consult with an attorney for help. 

The Child’s Best Interests

The main way that a criminal past can have an impact on which parent gets custody is related to what will be in the child’s best interest. The court uses the child’s best interest standard to decide how things should look when it comes to custody, visitation, and providing for the growing child’s needs. The court may view criminal history as relevant depending on how long ago the incident occurred, and the nature of the crime. The judge may use this information to assess that parent’s character and moral compass. Other factors that are often considered when deciding child custody include: 

  • The age of the child
  • The preference of the child (while also considering the child’s age and whether they have the capacity to make a reasonable decision)
  • The parent’s relationship with the child
  • Both parent’s living situations
  • Parent’s earnings
  • Relationship between child and parent
  • Whether there are other siblings
  • Whether each parent can support their child wanting a positive relationship with the other parent

The Victim of the Crime
The court will need to have a full understanding of the criminal offense in order to make a final decision about child custody. Violent crimes may make the court nervous and worry that perhaps the child’s well-being could be at risk. If the conviction was drug-related, the parent may have to abide by regular drug testing in order to have partial custody or visitation.

The more recent the conviction, the more weight it could likely have on the family court judge. Isolated incidents that occurred many years ago may not have much influence in the ultimate verdict. Any recent offenses that demonstrate poor judgement, risky behavior, or lack of moral character may result in that parent only receiving visitation rights, if any at all.

Types of Custody and Visitation

After evaluating all factors, the judge will decide whether to award custody to only one parent, both parents (joint custody), visitation to the non-custodial parent, or supervised visitation. The judge will also choose whether one or both parents get physical and legal custody. Physical custody entails having children live with them, and legal custody involves having a say in the child’s needs such as medical care and education. 

Hire an Attorney

As a parent going through a child custody battle, you can bet that your ex will probably bring up your past criminal background in order to get ahead of you in the case. You may want to hire a child custody attorney, like a child custody attorney in Tampa, FL, right away so you can have help showcasing yourself in the best light to the judge. 

Thanks to The McKinney Law Group for their insight into how a criminal charge could affect child custody.