Whenever there is a divorce with children involved, it is always a good sign when both parents want to share custody and spend as much time with their children as possible. Usually, everyone agrees that the best interest of the children is having both parents involved in their lives as much as possible. Even most courts today lean toward a 50/50 split when there is a dispute between the parties about child custody. The only reason most judges will deviate from a 50/50 split is if there is some valid reason to limit visitation with one parent. Many parents wonder if a past criminal arrest or conviction will have an effect on whether they will be granted some version of custody. The answer to that question is not simple. It will depend on the circumstances, as is the case with most legal issues.
Maryland Standard for Granting or Restricting Child Custody
The standard used by Maryland courts when addressing the issue of awarding child custody between parents is what is in the best interest of the child. Many factors go into the mix when making this determination. It is conceivable that a criminal conviction could influence a custody decision, especially if the charge indicates that the child may be put in danger as a result of the arrangement. This might likewise happen if a conviction comes after an order for custody has been granted. A change might be requested, and the courts would need to rule whether the crime affected the issue of what is in the best interest of the child.
Two Different Kinds of Custody
In every child custody case, there are two different kinds of custody a court has to address: legal custody and physical custody. Having legal custody of your child allows you to make and be involved in important decisions about your child’s life, such as education, health care, religion, and other issues. Physical custody relates to where the child lives.
For example, in many cases, parents will have 50/50 legal custody. This means that both parents have decision-making authority about their children. Also, in many cases, courts lean toward 50/50 physical custody as well. However, physical custody can be a variation of many plans and schedules depending on the circumstances. In some cases, parents will have 50/50 legal custody but a more off-balance in physical custody in which the child lives with one parent more than the other. These are the decisions that judges must make. Having a skilled and knowledgeable Maryland family law lawyer on your side goes a long way for getting fair custody of your child.
As mentioned above, a conviction for a felony, or even a misdemeanor, can theoretically affect your right to have some form of custody of your child. Although, with a felony being a more serious crime than a misdemeanor, the misdemeanor conviction has to be very particular to affect the issue of child custody. The true issue that the judge must consider and develop a factual record on are the details of the felony. There are hundreds of types of felonies under state and federal law. But many of them would not have an effect on whether a parent should get custody. But some felonies would.
If a crime is not linked to dangerous behavior, a judge is more inclined to let convicted felons have a say in their children’s lives and have some form of visitation, even 50/50 visitation. For example, a theft that took place 10 years ago with no additional incidents by the parent is not likely to have a major effect on a custody dispute. However, if there has been violence in the past, and the parent was convicted of assault, this would not bode well for that parent.
The parents who have the best chance are those that have lower-level felonies that happened a long time ago. If that is the case, the court can rely on years of good behavior from the parent to justify allowing visitation.
There are some felonies for which parents were convicted that would almost guarantee a court not awarding custody, no matter how much of a good parent they are and no matter the fact that they served their jail time and have paid their debt to society. It is also worth noting that, owing to the nature of the crime and other factors, there are times when a court will outright deny any type of custody to the wrongdoer parent. The majority of state legislation will usually handle this situation. Examples include domestic abuse against the other parent or child, sexual assault on the other parent or child, and any other form of child abuse or assault.
Sometimes you can have prior arrests and convictions expunged from your permanent record. This means that your arrest and/or conviction is wiped clean for most purposes. For example, if you have a prior DUI arrest and conviction expunged, it will not come up on a criminal background check for a new job hire. Unfortunately, in the state of Maryland, being in a custody battle for your children is one of those circumstances in which an expungement will be of little help. Your criminal record will continue to be accessible by law enforcement and court personnel, even after you have your criminal record expunged. The judge in your child custody case will have access to your complete criminal history. It is preferable to explain to the judge who is deciding on your child’s custody why you are a good parent despite your criminal record, rather than not addressing the issue at all and hoping it will not come up. You can be assured it will come up.
Baltimore Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC, Help Parents Win Custody of Their Children
Fighting for the right to raise your children can be a heart-wrenching experience. Not only are you going through a divorce, but also having to prove the fact that you are a good parent can be distressing. But you do not have to go through it alone. The Baltimore child custody lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC, are here to answer all your questions and to help you fight for your children. For more information and a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 443-589-0150. Located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we serve clients throughout Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Bentley Springs, Columbia, Freeland, Hereford, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks Glencoe, Parkton, Phoenix, Pikesville, White Hall, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.