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How will a Criminal Record Impact My Visitation Rights?

visitation rights and criminal record

We’ve heard the question – Does having a criminal record affect my child visitation and custody rights? The simple answer is yes, it may. Certain convictions will severely curtail or even terminate parental custody rights under Alabama and Florida law.

Let’s look deeper.

In The Best Interest of the Child

The best interest of the child is the primary focus of the family law judge in your case. A stable home with loving and present caregivers will always be the priority. The family court judge can even go against the wishes of one or both of the parents in deciding what is in the best interest of the minor children.

What is the Offense?

The nature of the offense is critical here. Is the criminal conviction a DUI that is 20 years old and has not been repeated? A judge may look at this and inquire if there have been any similar offenses and how the offender has dealt with his problem of driving while intoxicated? Is he receiving treatment? Is he still drinking?  Does he take Uber when he’s drinking to avoid a DUI but is still drinking and exhibiting reckless behavior?

That might indicate continuing behavior that poses a danger to children even though you have mitigated it by no longer driving.

You will have to be honest with the judge about the answer. 

Continuing to drink or do drugs means you may still have a problem with impairment that is not the ideal for a parent who is in charge of minor children. Riding in a car with a driver who continues to drink and do drugs could impact the child’s safety and do not expect any judge to sympathize.

On the other hand, if the conviction from the past has not in any way been repeated, the negative impact of that conviction may be reduced.

Violent Offense 

If the offense involves violence, verbal, physical, or sexual abuse, expect the court to limit your custody and visitation rights. If the offense involves any sexual abuse or life-threatening injuries to your partner or threats to your children, the court has the option to terminate all of your parental rights.

If your offense involves both drug and alcohol abuse and any type of violence, including physical, the court may assume you likely will be a bad parent in the future because of your past and any visits may be limited or curtailed.

If in your past you have been accused of emotional harm on your spouse or the children, the fear is that you can hurt them again and that too will be taken into consideration as debasing a spouse or children does not translate into a happy home and can be considered a form of child abuse.

Honesty is the best policy. The court can order you to undergo a hair follicle test to confirm drug use over the last several months, so if you have lied, that too will count against you.

If there are mitigating factors and you are now on the straight and narrow path, supervised visits may be ordered.

A judge is very likely not to award you visitation or custody rights to your children if you are in and out of jail. No one wants children to bounce among relatives while you serve your sentence. That is not the stable home the court seeks.

The remaining partner then may seek sole legal and physical custody while the other parent is in prison.

A New Partners’ Past

Consider too if your new partner has a prior conviction, that will be closely examined in a child custody case if this partner is going to be interacting with the kids while they are with you.

Obtain Experienced Legal Help

In summary- the court will consider the type of crime, how long ago you were convicted, and whether there is a continuing pattern of that offense. Smith & McGhee has extensive legal experience in the area of family law, and we understand how best to advocate for the outcome for your family that you seek. Please call our Dothan, Alabama office for a confidential consultation on the issues of your case at (334) 702-1744.