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Can a Person With a Criminal Record Get Child Custody?

A parent’s criminal record could potentially affect child custody proceedings. However, having a criminal record does not necessarily mean the parent is automatically ineligible to have custody of the child.

Considering the type of custody

First, remember that there are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to each parent’s ability to make decisions regarding the upbringing of the child, and physical custody refers to the time the child spends with each parent.

A criminal record could result in a parent not receiving physical custody (or at least sole physical custody), but that parent might still have joint legal custody of the child.

Considering the nature of the crimes

Misdemeanor offenses are usually not as serious as felony offenses, so a record that includes a misdemeanor will likely have less of an impact on potential custody proceedings.

Felony offenses are much more serious, but also range in their severity and egregiousness. Depending on the nature of the crime and the number of crimes committed, a judge may or may not take that criminal record into account.

Ultimately, custody arrangements hinge on what is in the best interests of the child. Whether the judge is being asked to make a decision or merely to affirm the parents’ custody agreement, that judge should evaluate the relevant evidence to determine what is indeed in the child’s best interests. A judge who believes a parent’s criminal record makes them irresponsible, dangerous or otherwise incapable of raising a child likely will not give that parent custody. But that decision entirely depends on the circumstances of the case.

If the criminal conviction is recent, that will have a greater impact on custody than one that may have taken place many years ago. The Court will also consider rehabilitation and other changes made by a party after their conviction.

For more information about what goes into making child custody arrangements, contact an experienced family lawyer at Jakubowski, Robertson, Maffei, Goldsmith & Tartaglia LLP.