Can a criminal conviction affect parental rights?

Many times a parent’s criminal history comes into question when determining or modifying child custody. Whether the issue has been brought to the court’s attention by the opposing parent or by the family court itself, there are many different considerations a family court takes when determining if the criminal history will affect parental rights.

When child custody is awarded, the family court does so with the child’s best interest in mind. Most often, the best interest model recommends that maximized time spent with both parents is in every child’s best interest. This, however, may not always be the case when either parent has a criminal history or is facing criminal charges.

Fortunately, the family court carefully weighs the impact stripping a parent of their parental rights will have on a child before choosing to do so. The family court does not want to subject a child to criminal behavior or put them in a dangerous situation. However, they also understand that not every crime inhibits a person’s ability to be an effective parent.

In most child custody cases, maintaining a relationship with both parents is not seen as detrimental to a child’s well-being. However, when a parent has a violent criminal past for offenses such as abuse, endangerment or sexually-based crimes, the family court may be more likely to believe that severing the parent-child relationship is more detrimental to the well-being of the child than maintaining it.

Of course there are many other minor crimes that may not affect custody or parental rights. For example, embezzlement or tax fraud may have little to no effect on a person’s parental rights after their time has been served. It is important for families to understand that in the case of a criminal history, the family court’s have the right to make a custody determination based on what they feel is in the child’s best interest. For families struggling with these issues, speaking to an attorney may help.