Child custody disputes in Missouri can be complicated. When a parent has a criminal record, they may feel like the cards are stacked against them. A past conviction does not mean that someone is a bad parent. If you are trying to get full or partial custody of your child with a criminal conviction on your record, contact the Higher Level Legal Law Firm.
Child Custody Factors in Missouri
Under Missouri law, child custody is based on a number of factors the court will consider. The basis of child custody is supposed to be what is in the best interests of the child. Factors to be considered for child custody include (but are not limited to) the following.
- Parent's wishes and a drafted parenting plan submitted by the parents.
- The child's wishes.
- The child's need for continuing and meaningful contact with both parents.
- Parent's willingness to encourage the child to maintain a healthy relationship with the other parent.
- Parent's intentions to relocate with a child (if any).
- The child's relationship with his or her parents, siblings, and extended family members on both sides.
- The child's adjustment to home, school, and the community.
- The physical and mental health of both parents.
- Any history of abuse (physical, verbal, or emotional) or neglect.
The courts are not supposed to favor any one parent over the other based on financial status, gender, age, or sex of the child. However, a prior criminal conviction can factor into child custody decisions in Missouri.
Criminal Convictions and Criminal Charges
A criminal conviction can impact the court's decision on child custody. A criminal conviction is not an automatic mark on a parent's record but it may depend on the type of criminal charge, multiple arrests, and how much time has passed since the conviction.
Violent Crimes and Abuse Charges
Violent criminal charges like assault can be viewed more harshly by the courts. A family law judge may believe a parent with an assault charge can be violent and pose a potential risk to a child. However, the situation surrounding a violent crime offense is important to consider. For example, getting arrested for a fight at a college football game may not be as relevant as a domestic assault charge against the child's other parent.
Crimes Against a Child
A criminal conviction for crimes against a child may be the most serious charges a court will consider in child custody cases. Violence or abuse of a child may indicate a parent's ability to harm a child physically, emotionally, or sexually. After a serious child abuse conviction, it may be difficult for a parent to gain custody of a child or even have unsupervised visitation with their own child.
Drug or Alcohol Offenses
Drug and alcohol offenses are some of the most common criminal charges. This includes possession of marijuana, driving while intoxicated (DWI), or possession of a controlled substance. Drug and alcohol charges may signal a problem with substance abuse. If a parent has a problem with substance abuse or addiction, the court may be wary that the addiction could be a negative influence on the child or that the parent may put the child at risk while the parent is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
A drug or alcohol offense may have less of an impact when more time has passed, it was a single event, or where the parent has actively sought help for substance abuse problems. If you have a prior drug or alcohol-related conviction or pending criminal charges, talk to your Missouri family law attorney to understand your options and what you can do to improve your position for child custody.
Multiple Criminal Convictions
Multiple criminal convictions may be taken more seriously than a single conviction. Multiple convictions may give the court reason to believe that the parent has a propensity towards crime. Multiple convictions may also be an indication that the parent may commit a crime in the future and the parent would be unable to provide for the child while incarcerated.
Recent Criminal Charges
More recent criminal arrests and convictions may have a greater impact on the court's consideration. An arrest for vandalism 15 years ago may not be important in a court's decision for child custody. However, an arrest within the past couple of years may be more important for the court. The amount of time that has passed since an arrest or conviction may be a factor in determining how much weight the court places on a prior offense.
New Partner's Criminal History
If the parent has moved in with a new partner or remarried after a separation, the court may also consider the new partner's criminal history. Using similar criteria, the new partner's prior history involving drugs, alcohol, violence, or abuse will be taken into consideration for establishing child custody. Talk to your family lawyer about how a partner's history can impact child custody disputes in Missouri.
Helping Your Child Custody Case After a Criminal Conviction
There are a number of things a parent can do after a criminal conviction or arrest to improve their child custody case. Actively seeking treatment related to criminal offenses may also improve your case in a child custody dispute. Seeking drug or alcohol treatment after a DWI or drug conviction may show the court that the parent wants to address the problem and is taking steps to address any substance abuse issues.
A family law judge may appreciate when an individual takes responsibility for their prior offenses and shows that they have learned a lesson from their past mistakes. This may be a problem for parents who were wrongly convicted or the conviction does not represent the full story. Talk to your child custody lawyer about how to handle a prior conviction in family court.
Consult an Experienced Missouri Family Law Attorney
Child custody disputes are best handled with the advice of an experienced family law attorney. Cass County family Higher Level Legal team has years of experience in custody disputes, including successfully representing parents with prior convictions. Contact the Higher Level Legal Law Firm today at (816) 331-9968 for a consultation.