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If you and your child’s other parent opt to go your separate ways, the court will take the best interest of your child to heart when arranging a custody agreement. A judge may consider a variety of factors when making decisions about custody, including any past criminal charges that either parent has faced. While a criminal charge may not bar either parent from custody rights, there are a few factors that can affect co-parenting, visitation rights, and/or the ability to gain full custody of your kids if either you or your former romantic partner has ever faced criminal charges. 

With that said, it is important not to panic or to otherwise make assumptions about the strength or weakness of your legal situation until you’ve spoken with an attorney. As an experienced family lawyer can confirm, there is no “one size fits all” standard for how criminal charges are dealt with during child custody disputes. The unique nature of your family’s situation will be evaluated according to the best interests of the child standard – nothing else. 

The Nature of the Charge 

The type of crime committed may weigh in on any child custody decisions a judge may make. For example, they may consider several factors regarding the charge, including: 

  • Whether it was a felony or not 
  • Who the victim was 
  • Whether any minors were involved 

Generally, misdemeanor crimes are not considered as serious, especially if they occurred a long time ago and you/your child’s other parent has not been charged with any crimes since. Felony charges that resulted in jail time are likely to be closely scrutinized, so it is wise to be honest with your attorney about the nature of the charge as well as offering your side of the story. 

When the Charge Occurred 

You may worry about a charge on your police record while seeking full custody of your kids, but time can play a part when it comes to how heavily that charge will weigh on the judge’s determination of your character. A judge arranging a custody agreement has the children’s best interests first and foremost, so they will likely take how long ago a charge happened into consideration. If the charge occurred when you were a minor, unless it was quite serious, it may not be considered at all. 

Charges that Indicate Patterns 

Your ex’s criminal record may be influential when it comes to requesting child custody or full visitation rights, especially if they have more than one charge of a similar type on that record. Drunk driving, drug infractions, violent crime, sex crime, domestic abuse, and/or weapons possession could especially influence a judge’s decision and whether these charges point to criminal patterns that may affect your child’s other parent’s ability to have a positive impact on the lives of your kids. This can be especially true of any recent charges. 

Again, no two child custody matters are exactly alike. Connect with an experienced family lawyer to get a stronger sense of how your family’s unique situation will be evaluated by the court.