Can Criminal Charges Affect Your Custody Battle?

If you're involved in a custody battle, having open or past criminal charges can play a role in what happens. It's not necessarily a deciding factor, but it is one that the judge will look at closely. Here's what you can expect.

How Does a Judge Decide Custody?

The main job of a family court judge in deciding a custody case is to decide what's in the best interests of the children. Most judges start by presuming that having both parents in their lives is in the best interests of the children, but they may rule differently if they believe one parent isn't able to properly care for or provide a stable environment for the children. When a judge considers criminal charges in a custody battle, it's not the fact that someone had criminal charges that's important but how the judge thinks it will impact the children.

How Will Past Criminal Charges Play a Role?

When a judge considers a past criminal charge, they will think about the nature of the charge as well as how long ago it was. A criminal charge for trespassing in a park after hours might not matter at all, while violent crimes or crimes against children could result in being awarded no custody or visitation. A judge might consider a single crime a long time ago a youthful mistake, while recent or repeated crimes might be seen as a lack of the maturity and stability needed to care for a child. There are no clear rules, and everything is up to the discretion of the judge.

How Will Current Criminal Charges Play a Role?

The judge will consider open criminal charges similarly to recent past crimes. However, the judge also needs to consider whether the possibility of a jail or prison sentence will be disruptive to the children's lives.

What if You're Falsely Accused of a Crime?

In a heated custody battle, it's not unheard of for a spouse to falsely allege abuse or child molestation to try to gain an advantage. While you're presumed innocent in criminal court, a family court judge has to consider the possibility that the allegations are true to protect the children during the investigation. For this reason, it's important to aggressively defend yourself in court to protect your rights against the false claims.

To learn more about how criminal charges can affect your custody battle, contact a local family and criminal defense attorney today.

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