Can Criminal Charges Affect Child Custody?

If you are divorcing or separated and you have minor children, you are probably quite concerned about how this life transition will affect your kids. Additionally, if you have just been charged with a crime, or you have been convicted of a crime in the past, you may worry that this situation will affect your divorce and/or child custody case. It is important to avoid jumping to any conclusions before connecting with an experienced attorney in your area. As divorce lawyers – including those who practice at Winfrey Law Firm, PLLC – can clarify, every single divorce and child custody case is different. Your criminal history may or may not have any bearing on your family law case at all. Generally speaking, whether your situation will impact your current legal circumstances will depend upon a variety of different factors.  

How Will the Court View a Criminal When Considering Custody Rights? 

What sort of crime you have been charged with (or convicted of) and whether you have a history of criminal wrongdoing, the identity of the victim, when the alleged wrongdoing took place, what (if any) sentence you received, etc. are all factors that a judge will take into consideration when evaluating your divorce and/or child custody case. 

When determining custody, the child’s best interests are the priority. A criminal background does not necessarily mean that you are an unfit parent. However, custody cannot be granted to someone who will pose a threat to the child. If you were charged with a crime that causes deliberate danger to other people, whether the crime was an isolated event or a repeat offense, you may have a harder time resolving your custody case in your favor than you would if your alleged wrongdoing did not cause deliberate harm to others. For example, an isolated case of shoplifting that happened years before your child was born will probably not have very much bearing on your custody rights. 

What if You Are Charged With a Crime During a Pending Custody Agreement?

A criminal charge that is levied while a custody case is pending custody can shed a whole new light on the matter. Although a criminal charge can present you in a very unfavorable light, it is important to remember that being charged with a crime does not necessarily prove that you committed a crime, and it is far less serious than a criminal conviction. In many cases, if you can prove that you are a fit parent despite the charges against you, the judge will not give these circumstances as much consideration as they would a criminal conviction. 

Should You Have Your Criminal Record Expunged?

The court will still take an expunged criminal record into account when granting custody. It may be better for you to focus less on hiding the past and more on proving yourself a fit parent, trusting the judge to grant custody based on your child’s best interest. With that said, if you are worried about the impact that a criminal background or recent criminal charge may have on your child custody arrangements, connect with a lawyer in your area today to receive personalized guidance.