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Criminal conviction does it affect my child custody rights?

Child custody remains one of the most contentious issues of a Pennsylvania divorce. Recently on our divorce forum a user asked, "If I live in the state of Pennsylvania and I have recently been convicted of a crime will this affect my request to be given some type of custody of my child following my divorce? I am trying to do right by my children, and I know they need a father in their lives."

Criminal Conviction and considering the best interests of the child

Although all states have their own requirements they will consider prior to making any type of child custody arrangements, the highest consideration in most states is the notion of what is in "the best interest of the child."

In a Pennsylvania child custody case, for example, prior to preparing a child custody order, the court will consider the criminal records of the individuals who have requested custody of the child, as well as anyone in their household who will have contact with the child.

Under the notion of the "child's best interest," the judge will consider the criminal actions of the individual in question and determine if their actions and criminal convictions pose a risk of harm to the child.

State statutes will determine whether or not the crime is considered in the judge's decision. For example, laws do not require the courts to consider vandalism and theft as a risk to the child but crimes such as aggravated assault, DUI, and certain drug crimes may be considered a risk.

Criminal convictions which are considered in child custody

As mentioned above, certain criminal convictions or guilty pleas are not considered in your child custody case; other are considered. Let's take a closer look at criminal actions which could negatively impact your ability to receive custody of your child.

Pennsylvania courts must consider all of the following offenses:

  • Criminal actions related to homicide

  • Criminal actions related to aggravated assault

  • Criminal actions related to terroristic threats

  • Criminal actions related to stalking

  • Criminal actions related to kidnapping

  • Criminal actions related to unlawful restraint

  • Criminal actions related to false imprisonment

  • Criminal actions related to rape

  • Criminal actions related to luring a child into a motor vehicle or structure

  • Criminal actions related to statutory sexual assault

  • Criminal actions related to deviant sexual intercourse

  • Criminal actions related to aggravated indecent assault

  • Criminal actions related to sexual assault

  • Criminal actions related to indecent exposure

  • Criminal actions related to conduct of a sex offenders

  • Criminal actions related to incest

  • Criminal actions related to concealing the death of a child

  • Criminal actions related to dealing with an infant

Note: this is not an exhaustive list but rather a segment of the types of criminal convictions which are considered in Pennsylvania child custody cases.

Bottom Line:

The type of criminal conviction you received will determine whether or not your criminal conviction will be considered in your child custody case. For a full list of crimes considered in your state you will need to talk to a family law attorney or review your state's statutes.

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