If you are at the outset of a child custody case, one of the key factors that will evaluate what type of custody you should have of your child is your ability to care for and provide a stable environment for your child. To evaluate you in this way, a judge will look back at your parenting history to see the extent to which you have had a role in raising your child. If, for instance, you have had minimal contact with your child in years past, it is unlikely that you will be able to become the primary conservator of your child.
Suppose the reason why you have not been able to play a role in your child’s life is that you have been convicted of a crime and have served time in jail or prison. Beyond anything about your attributes as a parent, a child custody case ultimately breaks down according to what a judge determines to be in the best interest of your child. This is the standard that a judge will go by, and the law in Texas allows judges a fair amount of latitude when making decisions accordingly.
How will your criminal background be evaluated in a child custody case?
Obviously, it will not be a positive attribute of your child custody case to have committed a crime in your past. Keep in mind that your opposing party will be doing their best to discredit you and strengthen their own case as well, so you will have some odds to overcome in getting ready for your trial date.
Who was the victim of your crime? If you committed an act of violence against a family member, especially your child, then this would stand almost zero chance of being successful in an attempt to win the primary conservatorship of your child successfully. In fact, if the crime was committed within two years of your current child custody case, you will not even be able to be named a joint managing conservator of your child. You will be a possessory conservator of your child, which means that your opposing party would be the sole managing conservator. You will have fewer rights and duties to your child, as well as the possibility of only supervised visitation.
For any other offense, a court will consider the type of offense and how long ago the conviction was. If we are talking about a crime from twenty-five years ago, that does not involve a child, your spouse, or theft of some sort, and it may not even be relevant to the case. If you received little or no jail time and a one-time-only offense and conviction, you become more and more able to withstand this conviction and achieve your child custody goals.
Concerns about repeating acts of violence against a child
The most important takeaway from this blog post's beginning sections is regarding a crime against children that involve violence. If any past criminal convictions of yours involve violence against children, the judge will want to do who the child was, their relationship to you, and the nature of the crime and conviction. Especially if the crime involves your own child, I can tell you that limitations on custody and visitation are likely.
It makes sense that if you have hurt your child before, physically or emotionally, that it would not take much for you to do so again. I have seen it happen before that a parent's serious crime against their children has resulted in the termination of parental rights. Obviously, this is an extreme example, but it is something to keep in mind. If you have any history of these kinds of crimes, it is not in your best interests to take your case to court. If at all possible, you should work with your opposing party to settle your case before it can get to a point where a judge can weigh in on the subject.
Prior convictions and child custody
Beyond discussing the type of offense you had previously committed, a court will want to look seriously at convictions that do not relate to your child or any other child. Domestic violence, drug, and alcohol abuse rank very highly among those past criminal convictions that can destroy a person’s chances at being named a primary conservator of a child or even a joint managing conservator with standard visitation rights. Anger management issues and a propensity to engage in domestic violence are not characteristics you would want to associate with you in a child custody case.
The Texas Family Code specifically states that it is not in the best interests of a child for you as a parent to have unsupervised visits with your child if a court finds that there is credible evidence of a pattern of past or present neglect or abuse of a child or spouse by you. This means that the deck is stacked against you from the start of your case. You would need to either diminish the effect of domestic violence or provide evidence as to why this conviction or history of domestic violence should not trigger this presumption against you.
The effect of a drug or alcohol conviction on your child custody case
Criminal convictions regarding drugs and alcohol are not inherently the same as a crime involving violence but are still going to make your case difficult to prove if you want to win primary custody of your children.
Once your history of drug or alcohol abuse is presented to a court, you will likely be ordered to immediately take a drug/alcohol test. If it is a hair follicle test, your usage of these substances from the past few months can be detected. Usage of a substance like alcohol that involves your children, such as driving under the influence of alcohol with your children in the vehicle, will have a disastrous effect on your child custody case.
How long ago was your criminal conviction?
As we stated earlier in this blog post, the amount of time between your criminal conviction and your child custody case will affect the weight given to that conviction as far as evidence is concerned. If the conviction were from decades ago and were a one-time occurrence, the weight given to the conviction would likely be much less than a conviction from a year ago for a crime you have repeatedly committed.
Likewise, if you had to serve longer sentences in prison, it is hard to convince a judge that you respect the law and wouldn’t do anything to put your child in harm’s way. If you have served multiple five-year prison sentences in your past, it is not difficult to assume that you are likely to do so again in the future. Who would your children live with during your sentence? How would their lives be affected by their parent serving time in prison? These are all questions that a judge can avoid by limiting your future contact and rights to your children.
Questions on the effect of criminal convictions on child custody cases? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
If you have questions about how your criminal history will affect a child custody case that you are involved in, please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, today. We represent parents from all walks of life and do so with great pride. A consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys is free of charge and is available six days per week here in our office.
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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Child Custody Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding child custody, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX child custody lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our child custody lawyers in Houston, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles child custody cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.