For divorcing parents, few issues inspire as much debate as child custody and visitation. With such an emotional consideration on the table, spouses may dredge up all sorts of past issues in an attempt to support their plea for sole custody. For parents with a criminal history, the worry that their past may affect their chances of visitation or joint custody may prompt them to agree with any parenting plan suggested. This, however, would be a mistake, and one that can be avoided by working with an experienced family law attorney.
When it comes to child custody during divorce, it is public policy to make the determination based on what is in the child's best interest. The concern of parents with a criminal background is that the family court will feel that it is not in the best interest of their child to be with them. Despite common belief, this is not usually the case. And, depending on any number of factors, even parents with a criminal history can request and gain child custody and visitation.
The weight the family court places on criminal convictions will depend heavily on a great number of factors. When determining custody for a child whose parent has a criminal history, the family court will likely consider the type and number of offenses. Obviously, criminal convictions for serious crimes such as sex and violent crimes will impact child custody quite a bit more than convictions for something non-violent types like white-collar crimes. The family court will also usually look at the age of the conviction and the nature of sentencing when determining child custody.
Barring any significant concerns regarding the well-being of a child, individuals with a criminal history may request and gain custody or visitation of their child after divorce. To improve the chances of receiving joint custody or visitation rights, individuals with a criminal history may benefit by working with an experienced family law attorney during their divorce.