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Child Custody: Can a Criminal Record Prevent You from Getting Child Custody

The United States court system of family law takes child custody very seriously, and they consider all aspects of the child’s wellbeing when making a decision that affects the family. Since a parent’s criminal history can complicate the child’s life, the courts focus on the types of crimes to make determinations about what is in the best interest of the child.

How Does Criminal History Affect Custody?

When a judge makes decisions about the custody of a child, and one or both parents have criminal convictions, they will factor in all the details such as:

  • The length of time since the conviction(s).
  • If there were repeated offenses.
  • The types of crimes. If they were violent or damaging to the child.
  • Who the victims of the crime were.
  • The sentencing received for the offense (s).

If you have a history of violent behavior even if not within your own family, a judge may consider you to be a danger to the child and revoke your custody. If you have a string of arrests for drug or alcohol abuse, this may indicate a more significant problem and again, be a risky environment for a child.

If you have hurt your child physically or emotionally in the past, a court may even limit visitation or require supervision. The idea being if you hurt them once, you have the potential to do so again.

If your criminal offenses took place in the past and you have maintained a clean lifestyle since then with no further convictions, the courts are more likely to look positively on your situation. If you have more recent convictions, a judge may look more harshly at those.

Frequent and repeat offenses indicate a likelihood of continuation of bad behavior and a judge will not place a child in your custody without serious reservations.

Types of Offenses that Affect Child Custody Cases

Convictions such as assault, domestic violence, battery, weapons charges, stalking, and drug offenses are a significant concern for the courts when deciding upon custody and visitation. These offenses indicate an unsafe environment for the child and can seriously affect your custody rights.

Sex crimes are even more damaging and will almost certainly affect your child custody, regardless of the circumstances. There is a strong stigma associated with sexual offenses. It will be tough for you to wash that off and convince a judge that you are a fit parent for your child.

Types of Offenses that Don’t Effect the Child’s Best Interest

Crimes unrelated to a person’s ability to care for a child are less likely to affect your custody battle. For example, a misdemeanor for a petty offense like shoplifting, writing a bad check, or possession of a stolen item are things that do not put the child in any immediate danger, and the court may dismiss them as unrelated to custody.

The bottom line is the court is concerned about the happiness, health, and wellbeing of the child. If anything affects that including the environment they live in, their visitation and custody arrangements, the court must act on behalf of the child’s best interest.

Although a single offense DUI may seem unrelated it can indicate to a judge your lack of ability to make good decisions, and it may put the child in danger if you drive while intoxicated with them in the car.

Will Criminal Records of Relatives Affect Child Custody?

Depending on the living situation of the parent in question, the court will consider relatives as a potential danger or not. If the parent does not associate with those relatives and does not live with them, then they probably don’t pose a threat to the child. The parent’s behavior is a motivating factor. Because a parent may have relatives who have had trouble with the law, does not mean they are unfit or undeserving or custody or visitation with their children.

Family courts take every single factor into account when determining proper custody and visitation. Nothing will be overlooked to ensure the child has the best opportunity for a healthy, happy living situation.