If you’re a parent and concerned about how your criminal record is going to affect your relationship with your child, you’re not alone. In a 2000 study, it was determined that 6% of Americans had a criminal record and, as we move forward, it’s expected that 6.6% of adults will serve at least some time in prison. In simpler terms, that’s one person out of every 15 adults. So, the way a criminal record affects child custody is something that concerns millions of families.
Child Custody and Criminal Convictions
In general terms, a felony conviction does not automatically mean you’ll lose custody of your child. Family courts across the country strive to keep families together as much as possible. This is because judges try to do what’s in the child’s best interests and keeping both parents in the child’s life is usually considered to be aligned with that goal.
As long as the conviction didn’t involve a crime committed against the child, that parent will usually retain his or her rights. They may be granted custody and the right to make decisions about the child’s upbringing, as well. By way of an example, a tax fraud conviction is a felony, but, upon serving his or her sentence, that parent may be able to assume full or partial custody of the children.
When a Felony Conviction Does Interfere with Child Custody
There are some crimes that will prompt the courts to limit or eliminate an individual’s parental rights. Primarily, a person will likely lose custody rights, if their criminal conviction was the result of causing harm to their child. Instances of child abuse and neglect, child endangerment, or sexual abuse will result in a revocation of parental rights, and the parent may not be able to visit the child at all. If visitation is permitted, it will likely be timed and supervised by an officer of the court.
Other violent crimes can also be used to determine the loss of parental rights. In general, crimes like murder can be used to establish that the individual is unfit as a parent. This will especially be the case if the individual has committed domestic violence, including murder, against the other parent of the child. When determining visitation with minor children, the court will examine the nature of the felony and the length of time since the crime was committed, along with other factors.
While a felony conviction doesn’t automatically bar an individual from retaining custody of their children, the court will look at the nature of the crime committed. In some cases, even visitation will be limited. Some mitigating factors may work in the individual’s favor, helping him or her establish visitation rights, but that will be a decision ultimately left up to the judge. Whatever your situation, it’s always wise to have an attorney working with you on all family court matters. No matter what the court decides, don’t lose hope and don’t give up.