Can My Criminal Record Affect Child Custody?

In child custody cases in New Jersey, the court considers the best interests of the child in conjunction with the factors listed under N.J.S.A. 9:2-4. Under this statute there are several factors that relate to a criminal conviction:

  • the safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent
  • the stability of the home environment offered
  • the fitness of the parents
  • any other factors the court deems relevant

Judges deciding on a parenting time schedule for the child will take into consideration either parent’s criminal past. Sometimes, when a judge is reviewing past criminal convictions he or she will consider if the crime was long ago or if it is a one-time offense for something minimal or unrelated to typical parental responsibilities. For example, a conviction for shoplifting when you were a teenager may have little bearing on a judge’s opinion on your fitness as a parent. On the other hand, if there is evidence of a previous shoplifting conviction along with testimony that states you have been telling your child it is ok to shoplift, the judge may have a different opinion.

A judge may also consider:

  • What crime was committed?
  • Against whom was the crime committed?
  • How long ago was the crime committed?
  • Are there troubling patterns or multiple offenses?

Depending on the answers to these questions, your criminal record could have an impact on the custody decision.

Convictions that Affect Custody

Any violent incident on your criminal record is likely to raise a red flag with the judge about possible violent tendencies or anger issues. A conviction for a violent incident against a child would be that much more problematic. Drug charges are often considered, but they are more likely to hold more weight if the conviction brought a jail sentence that caused you to be away from your child, which affected the stability of their home life. Likewise, repeated stints in rehab or other treatment for drug or alcohol abuse could disrupt a child’s sense of stability. Allegations of drug or alcohol abuse could cause a judge to order a parent seeking child custody to submit to drug testing to gain or retain custody.

Custody Arrangements

When assessing the custody arrangement for a child, a judge may consider sole physical custody versus joint physical custody. If the parent is seen as a risk to the child, visitation is likely to be restricted or supervised. Bottom line: The Judge will implement the parenting schedule that is in the best interests of the child.

Somerville Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Advise Clients With Criminal Histories

If you are concerned that a criminal record could affect your case for child custody, you may benefit from the valuable legal advice of a Somerville child custody lawyer at Lyons & Associates, P.C. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 908-575-9777 to set up a free case evaluation. From our offices in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.