When a child custody agreement is approved by the family court judge, it then becomes legally binding. Any changes to that agreement must also be approved by a judge, and this is not lightly done. In fact, unless there is a compelling and legally recognized reason for changing the agreement, the court will probably refuse to even hear any arguments for modifying it. However, as your child custody lawyer may have already informed you, a criminal conviction for a serious crime may be grounds for modifying an agreement in one or more ways. If you or the other parent has been charged with a crime, or have already been convicted of the crime, your child custody agreement may be affected.
Criminal Charges that are Relevant to the Child Custody Agreement
Simply because one parent is found guilty of a crime, this does not necessarily put the child custody agreement into question. For instance, if one parent is convicted of insurance fraud, this may not be grounds for modifying the agreement. However, if they are convicted of assault, possession or production of child pornography, or drug possession, that’s another matter. As your child support lawyer may tell you, should the crime be relevant to the parent’s ability to care for their child in a healthy and safe manner, a judge is expected to ensure that the child will be safe around that parent. If the judge has concerns, they may have the legal and moral obligation to protect the child by changing the agreement accordingly.
When a Criminal Act or Behavior May Affect their Parenting Ability
If you are the parent who has been charged with a crime that may reflect badly on your ability to properly care for your child, hiring a criminal defense lawyer as well as a child custody lawyer is essential. Making every effort to avoid a conviction of the charge can go a long way toward avoiding going to court for a modification of the child custody agreement. If you are convicted, the other parent will have grounds for petitioning the court for changes.
It’s important to understand that even if the criminal charge may not seem directly related to your ability to care for your child, if it indicates a pattern of destructive behavior it can also flag the attention of the judge. For example, a pattern of shoplifting may indicate psychological issues that are being left unattended and which may hinder their parenting focus.
Possible Modifications to the Child Custody Agreement Following a Criminal Conviction
If you are convicted of a crime that the judge considers material to your ability to properly care for your child, there are several changes that they may make to the child custody agreement:
· You may lose all visitation rights temporarily or permanently
· You may lose primary custody
· You may be ordered to have a court-approved third-party present during all visitations with your child