A criminal record can significantly impact your life. After completing your sentence, it might be hard to find a job, manage finances, and otherwise resume your life. When people lose custody of their children due to criminal activities, fighting for child custody can be incredibly difficult. It takes stellar legal counsel, compelling evidence, and a strong record to indicate your rehabilitated status to have a good chance of securing child custody, especially after serious charges.
The Court’s Top Priority
In any type of legal matter involving children, the court has a duty to act in the best interests of those children. The judge handling a child custody case must carefully assess the parents’ personalities and propensities to make a sound judgment, and this is especially true for a parent with a criminal record. Several factors about your criminal record could influence a judge’s decision, including:
- The type of offenses on your record. If you committed nonviolent crimes such as fraud or tax evasion, this won’t reflect as poorly as violent crimes such as aggravated assault or rape. Minor offenses like shoplifting may not carry any weight at all, but more serious crimes, especially those that resulted in multiple years of incarceration, will certainly affect the judge’s decision.
- The victims of your past offenses. If any of your criminal history included victimizing children in any way, the judge will not look favorably on this. The best-case scenario for most cases involving children would be occasional, supervised visitation. If you abused your own children in the past, the judge will likely assume you could do so again. If you win any type of custody in such a case, the judge will likely impose restrictions for your visitation time with your kids. For example, you may only be able to see them in designated locations with professional supervision and the custodial parent present.
- Your age at the time of conviction. The judge will probably understand that you’ve matured since a crime committed in your teens, but it’s important to make a compelling case that you have rehabilitated yourself.
- The number of convictions on your record. A single criminal offense is much easier to overcome in child custody hearings than multiple offenses.
Ultimately, it is up to the judge handling the case to award custody rights, and the nature of your crimes will likely influence the judge’s requirements for you to have any type of custody. For example, if you committed violent crimes such as aggravated assault or armed robbery, the judge may want to see evidence that you have completed counseling for anger management and have a record free of violence since your past conviction. If any of your offenses were drug-related, the judge will likely want to see proof of long-term sobriety and require regular drug tests for you to maintain custody. If you had prior traffic-related offenses or a DUI, the judge may prohibit you from driving with your children.
A judge considers these factors to make a decision in the best interests of the children. A parent with multiple criminal offenses on his or her record presents stability issues as well as a safety risk. What happens if the parent breaks the law again and goes back to jail? This type of inconsistency and uncertainty is unhealthy for children, so a judge will likely make a decision that avoids this as much as possible. A judge will want to see that a parent with a criminal record is rehabilitated, stable, and has no desire or inclination to return to criminal activity.
Another issue that can complicate your child custody case is whether you’ve entered into a new relationship. If you have and your new partner has any type of criminal record, your child’s other parent may use this against you. If you’re concerned about how your criminal record may interfere with your child custody rights, speak with a family law attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options.