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Does a Criminal Record Affect Child Custody?

Middle Tennessee Family Law March 28, 2023

Being a parent is one of the most challenging jobs, and this is true no matter what your personal circumstances are. Whether you’re married, a single mom or dad, or co-parenting after a divorce, you’ll have to overcome obstacles and navigate your own path through this difficult, yet infinitely rewarding time. However, there are some situations that can complicate factors, especially if you’re separated or divorced from your co-parent and you’re concerned about the safety of your children.

Specifically, many of our clients want to know, “How does a criminal record affect child custody?” or “How does a domestic violence charge affect child custody?” You need to fully understand these important questions, especially how they can affect your child support arrangement.  

If you’d like to speak with a family law attorney about your concerns, contact us at Middle Tennessee Family Law. Our team has the knowledge and resources to walk you toward the correct path. We can help those in and around Franklin, Tennessee, as well as Murfreesboro and Nashville. 

Factors Considered in Determining Custody in Tennessee  

There are a number of factors affecting child custody in Tennessee, and to fully understand which of these pertain to you, you should speak with a local child custody lawyer who can thoroughly evaluate your situation. When a couple with children divorces, they can either decide between themselves on a custody agreement, or they can turn to a judge to make a decision about this if they can’t come to a resolution. In all cases, a judge will consider the best interests of the child above all else and will never automatically award custody to one parent over the other without just cause. That said, there are other considerations a judge will look at including the ability of each parent to provide for their child in terms of physical and emotional support, how willing each parent is to cultivate a positive relationship with the other parent, the mental and physical health of each parent, the child’s preference (if the child is over 12 years old), and whether there’s been a history of abuse or neglect.    

Effect of Criminal Record on Child Custody  

One factor that could also affect the child custody arrangement is whether or not either parent has a criminal record. However, this is dependent on what crime was committed and the extent of the record (for example, whether you’re a one-time or repeat offender). Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to have one parent use the other’s criminal history against them in an effort to discredit them as a responsible caretaker. These can be truly harmful allegations, and it depends on the circumstances whether or not they’ll hold water. It’s also worth noting that simply because you have a criminal record doesn’t mean you’ll lose your parenting rights. In some cases, a judge may not give it any consideration, in others, they may enforce only supervised visits, while at other times, full custody may be awarded to the other parent.   

The first standard a judge will use when determining whether a criminal record should be considered is the best interests of the child. This can be somewhat subjective, so it’s vital to work with an experienced child custody attorney if you feel you’re at risk of having your parenting rights limited. Among other things, a judge will want to know the nature of the crime, when it was committed, who the victim was, whether you’ve displayed a pattern of criminal behavior in the past, and whether you were simply charged with a crime or actually convicted. 

How Domestic Violence Affects Custody  

One such crime that can carry a significant penalty is a domestic violence charge. This, along with a history of sexual abuse against your partner or child, will almost universally bar you from gaining custody of your child. If you have a protective order (also referred to as a restraining order) against you from your spouse or co-parent, this can often mean that you’ll also be prohibited from contact with your children. If you violate these orders you may be arrested for kidnapping.  

If you’re trying to protect your child from your co-parent who’s been charged or convicted of domestic violence, you need to reach out to a lawyer immediately for help. Additionally, begin to collect any evidence that documents the instances of violence. This can help you obtain a protective order, even if it’s just temporary. This will give you time to work with your attorney on a more long-term solution. 

Giving You the Attention You Deserve  

If you’re in the Franklin, Tennessee, area and want to learn more about how a criminal record could affect your child custody agreement, reach out to our team at Middle Tennessee Family Law. Here, we’ll listen carefully to your side of the story, examine the available evidence, and then provide clear and realistic legal advice about what you can expect.