Does a Criminal Conviction Affect My Child Custody Rights?

Divorcing parents deal with extraordinary levels of stress. Not only are they faced with the prospect of having to build a life for themselves, but also they must help their children negotiate this difficult time. Questions of child custody are nearly always complex, and they only become more so when one of the parents has a criminal conviction. Contact the Hudson Valley family law attorneys at Steven H. Klein & Associates if you have been convicted of a criminal offense and are concerned about how this may affect your rights as a parent.

The frustratingly ambiguous answer that family law attorneys often have to give is “maybe” when they are asked about the effects that a criminal history may have on child custody. Several factors come into play. What was the criminal offense? How long ago did it occur? Did the incident involve domestic violence toward a child? Each of these considerations and a number of others may affect the judge’s decision.

What’s in the Child’s Best Interest when dealing with criminal conviction?

It’s important to keep in mind that judges in New York make custody decisions based on the best interests of the child. This is a purposely ambiguous standard that allows judges to weigh the unique situation and dynamics in every family. Accordingly, the judge may take a history of criminal offenses into account when making decisions about parental rights. If the judge feels that there is reasonable evidence to suggest that the parent with a criminal record is likely to re-offend, then this can be damaging.

This is especially true when the past criminal offense involved domestic violence. The judge doesn’t necessarily want to prevent a parent from having a relationship with their child, but they also have the responsibility of finding a safe and stable home for the children. This may mean that a domestic violence conviction will weigh heavily against the parent.

It may be possible to minimize the impact of a criminal conviction on family law matters. Ask a New York divorce attorney about the possibility of having an old criminal record sealed. Alternatively, it may be possible to obtain a Certificate of Rehabilitation, an official document that means that a past criminal record cannot be held against you in certain circumstances.

Work with a Qualified Divorce Attorney

If you are going through a divorce and you’re concerned about maintaining your parental rights, then it makes sense to work with a qualified New York divorce attorney. Chances are good that you want what’s best for your children, and family courts generally work hard to keep family relationships intact. That’s good news for parents who have a criminal record. However, it’s not something that should be left to chance. An experienced family law attorney can help you present the strongest possible case in your defense.

The practitioners at Steven H. Klein & Associates help families resolve difficult parental rights issues every day. It may be possible to maintain your relationship with your children, but you’ll need competent legal representation to do so. Contact our experienced Poughkeepsie family law attorneys to learn more.

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