Going through a divorce is hardly an easy situation. Separations involve a number of complicated matters, including child custody. The protection of children is a top priority for parents and courts. That is why a criminal record can seriously affect a parent’s child custody rights. It’s important to contact a skilled child custody attorney when a criminal record comes into play in a divorce case.

At Cohen & Patel Law Firm, LLC, we are ready to guide and support clients at any stage of the divorce process. If you have a criminal record—or your soon-to-be-ex spouse has a criminal record—contact me today for a consultation. We proudly serve individuals and families in Pottstown and the rest of Pennsylvania, including Montgomery and Chester counties.

Factors Considered in Determining Custody in Pennsylvania

Like other states, courts take child custody matters extremely seriously in Pennsylvania. As a result, child custody proceedings involve several factors to determine custody (i.e., sole or joint custody). The following factors may play a crucial role in determining child custody in Pennsylvania:

  • Financial stability. Parents need to be able to provide for their children’s material needs. Consequently, factors such as formal employment and a regular income may help determine child custody decisions. It is worth noting that the custodial parent does not necessarily need to be employed to get custody. The non-custodial parent, however, must be able to prove they have the means to cover their children’s basic needs.
  • Stable home life. A stable home life is a crucial factor in child custody cases. The custodial parent must prove they can provide a stable home life for their kids.
  • Physical health. Overall physical health is a key consideration. Parents with serious medical conditions and illnesses might be deemed unable to care for children.
  • Mental health. Like physical health, mental health factors in determining custody. Parents with mental health, especially violent ones, may find it hard to keep their parental rights. Mental health conditions, including substance abuse, can negatively impact parental rights. In some instances, parents with substance abuse issues may be declared unfit to fulfill their parental obligation.
  • Family life. Interaction with other family members, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and so forth, is essential in a child’s development. Being able to provide a stable family life is a consideration in child custody decisions. The custodial parent needs to provide an appropriate environment conducive to children’s emotional and psychological well-being.
  • Criminal record. A criminal record can, indeed, play a significant role in determining parental rights. For instance, individuals with a history of convictions or incarceration may be determined unable to care for children. Nevertheless, not all criminal convictions are equal. The court must determine if a parent’s criminal history may endanger the child’s well-being in any way.

Family courts must focus on a child’s well-being, security, and stability. As a result, any factors threatening a child’s well-being may cause a parent to lose their custodial rights.

Effects of a Criminal Record on Child Custody

A criminal record can profoundly affect child custody. Folks often ask, “How does my criminal record affect child custody?” There are two specific considerations to keep in mind when answering that question:

  • The charges. Individuals convicted of violent crimes (i.e., aggravated assault, murder), sex crimes (e.g., rape, soliciting minors), or drug charges (i.e., manufacturing and possession) may pose a risk to a child’s well-being. Therefore, the court might decide the parent is not fit to perform their duties. This consideration may be further compounded if the parent has a history of repeat offenses.
  • Incarceration. Currently or possibly serving jail time can seriously impact parental rights. Nevertheless, incarceration depends on its length. Individuals facing or serving long prison terms, such as five or ten years or more, may lose their parental rights due to the individual’s inability to provide and care for their children.

Please bear in mind that lesser charges might not seriously impact parental rights. Additionally, a one-time conviction, especially of a lesser misdemeanor charge, might have no bearing in custody decisions.

How Domestic Violence Can Affect Child Custody

A good rule of thumb is determining if a criminal history can impede an individual from fulfilling their parental duties. For instance, how does a domestic violence charge affect child custody? Domestic violence charges can have a serious impact on custody decisions. Specifically, the court may feel that a history of domestic violence is detrimental to a child’s well-being. Suppose the court feels that a history of domestic violence poses a safety risk. In that case, a parent may lose rights, including visitation. In some instances, non-custodial parents may be eligible for supervised visits.

Above all, consulting with a professional family law attorney is crucial to understanding these factors. An experienced family law attorney can help parents grasp the scope of the unique situations they face.

Skilled & Compassionate Legal Advocacy

No one deserves to go through a child custody issue—or a criminal charge—alone. At Cohen & Patel Law Firm, LLC, we are ready to protect the rights of every one of my clients. Reach out to our firm to speak with a family law attorney to discuss your options.