Imagine a world where everything you say, everything you do, and everything that is said about you is carefully recorded, massaged, packaged, and reordered. Then, the final product is presented by surprise in court - and it is not too flattering of you. Attorneys have skills and training that make them good at that. Child custody attorneys find the entire process valuable to their client's case. Put everything together and it equals one huge problem for you during any type of child custody case.
Child custody decisions are normally based on a list of factors that include details about the child and details about the parent. In most jurisdictions, criminal history is a relevant input into those factors. That means a "spot" on your record will go into the giant heap of criteria when a judge is considering your fitness as a parent. In a situation where the decision is difficult to make, a criminal history can tip the balance for or against you. That is why it is ultra essential to have a clean record going in to any custody case.
One particular area of concern is domestic violence. If you have any type of criminal record involving domestic violence - that will present special problems in your custody case. In many states a judge is required to consider past incidents of domestic violence when deciding a custody case. Many attorneys believe a criminal conviction for domestic violence will completely sink your chances in your child custody case. If you have a child custody case coming up it is very important to avoid situations where domestic violence is possible. If you have already been charged with domestic violence it is very important to fight the charges with an experienced Pinellas domestic violence defense attorney. Any plea in a domestic violence case that declares you guilty, or even with a "withheld adjudication" can be extremely damaging to your child custody case.
Drug offenses are also troubling to child custody courts. Your child custody case will be severely impacted if you have a criminal record involving illegal drugs such as cocaine, illegal prescription pills or even marijuana. Any recent criminal incidents, such as in the last 12 months will have a more dramatic effect. If you do have a criminal history involving illegal drugs, the best way to prepare for a custody case would be to completely abstain from drugs long before your custody case starts. But the bottom line on drug offenses is that the judge will scrutinize the offenses carefully before giving you significant parenting time with your children.
The least troubling charges are "crimes of dishonesty." That includes theft, embezzlement, and other similar crimes such as "worthless check" charges. Although crimes of dishonesty do not directly impact a child custody decision, they are admissible as an indicator of your "truthfulness." In other words a crime of dishonesty on your record is a signal to the court that you are not necessarily capable of telling the truth on the witness stand. That does not necessarily blow a hole in your custody case but it is certainly not helpful.
A criminal history can definitely be a problem when it comes to any child custody case. To avoid those problems you should always contact a criminal defense lawyer to look into your charges. And if you decide to plea to a criminal charge you should always be aware of the potential effect on your custody case. If you do have a criminal record going in to a custody case be sure to think out your explanations for each mark on your record. Finally, if you qualify consider sealing or expunging your prior criminal history.
With proper coordination between your local criminal defense attorney and your custody attorney you can make the best of your custody case and not hurt one of the most important rights in your life - the right to parent your children.