Understanding How Criminal Charges Can Impact Child Custody Decisions in Los Angeles County Family Law Courts
Child custody cases in Los Angeles County will frequently become very controversial when both parents start making allegations against each other. Too often, this type of strategy is used with the belief it will prove to the judge that the other is not worthy of becoming the primary custodian of their children.
In some divorce cases that involve child custody issues that need to be determined by the court, one parent will make damaging accusations about the other being involved in criminal activity. In other child custody cases, one parent may already have a past criminal record before marriage.
Evidence of prior criminal conduct can often prove difficult to overcome if now find yourself involved in a child custody dispute. In child custody cases, the other parent might use your prior criminal history in an effort to reduce your custody or visitation rights.
If you are facing a child custody dispute, you need to contact an experienced Los Angeles divorce and family law attorney at Furman & Zavatsky LLP immediately to help protect your child custody and visitation rights.
It's important to understand that criminal accusations can often have a major impact on the family court's decision when your specific criminal conduct is directly related to the child's best interest.
All Los Angles County family law courts us this standard to make their decisions on child custody and visitation. In fact, the courts will take a close look at the criminal history of both parents as well as other factors if it's relevant to determine what's in the child's best interest.
Most judges believe that criminal activity is a direct reflection on the character of the parent. When a judge is considering the level of importance of prior criminal activity, they will often consider who the victim of your crime was, what type of crime you committed, sentence received, and how long ago did the criminal offense occur.
The judge will also look for any patterns of criminal conduct which will be shown by multiple convictions. It's important to note there is a difference between being arrested and being convicted.
Best Interest of the Child Standard
As stated above, when determining the custody of your child, the Los Angeles family law courts will consider whether either parent has been charged with a crime. The court's goal is to determine the “best interests” of your child, which includes prior or ongoing criminal activity of a parent. California Family Code 3011 outlines considerations of a child's best interests and will consider whether many factors, including issues of domestic violence, protective orders, alcohol or drug abuse, among other factors.
They will consider your prior misdemeanor or felony activity to determine child custody and how much time has elapsed since you were charged, and whether your conviction was expunged.
The judge will most likely reduce your visitation time with your children if your prior criminal history included violence or involved spousal or child abuse. The judge is less likely to consider prior criminal activity that's not directly related to your ability to be a good parent.
Let's take a closer look at some specific criminal activity that will most likely have a major impact on child custody cases. Call our Los Angeles divorce attorneys for additional information and how it may directly apply to your child custody case.
Illegal Drug Use
California Family Code 3011(d) specifically mentions habitual or continual illegal use of drugs as a major consideration when awarding child custody. The court is permitted to rely on law enforcement reports of the parent's drug use, including criminal charges. If your spouse is a habitual drug user, it is important to bring it to the attention of the Judge so that the Judge may properly consider it when awarding custody of your child.
Alternatively, if you have criminal charges related to illegal drug use, it will be important to demonstrate to the court that the drug use is in your past and you are no longer a habitual or continual user of illegal drugs.
The Judge will look unfavorably upon a parent seeking custody when that parent has criminal charges related to domestic abuse. Under Family Code 3011(b) the court will consider domestic abuse against the following:
- Any child, related or not, with whom the parent had a care-taking relationship;
- The other parent; and
- The parent, current spouse, other household member, or romantic partner of the parent seeking custody.
Furthermore, if your former spouse has been convicted of child abuse under California Penal Code Section 273a “infliction of physical pain or mental suffering,” Section 273d “infliction of cruel or inhuman corporal punishment,” or Penal Code Section 647.6 “child molestation,” there is a presumption that the abusive parent should not have custody of the minor child.
If your former spouse is seeking custody of your child and has criminal charges of domestic abuse or child abuse, it is imperative that the information is brought to the Judge's attention. A history of domestic abuse or child abuse indicates that a child will be at risk in the parent's custody and the court will look unfavorably upon granting custody of the child to the parent with criminal charges of domestic violence.
Obviously, sex crimes are serious and will play a major role in determining child custody cases. It's no secret that if one parent shows you have prior sex crimes offenses, you are facing an uphill battle in being awarded favorable child custody and visitation orders. You should contact an experienced attorney if you have been charged with, or convicted of a sex crime.
If your former spouse has been convicted of a crime that requires them to register as a sex offender in California Penal Code Section 290, the court will not permit that parent to have custody of the child unless the court finds, in writing, that there is no risk to the child. This is a difficult burden to overcome so if your former spouse is a registered sex offender it is important to bring it to the Judge's attention.
If you or your spouse has been charged with other crimes, the court will consider it on a case-by-case basis. The court is largely concerned with violent crime that will lead to physical harm of the child or crime that will lead to neglect of the child.
The court is concerned with the child's best interests when awarding custody, and some crimes weigh more heavily against custody than others. If you have been charged with a crime and are seeking custody of your child, it is important to speak to our Los Angeles child custody attorneys to determine what impact the crime might have on your chances of being awarded custody of your minor child.
Overcoming Criminal Charges
If you have criminal charges and are seeking custody of your minor child, there are some steps that can be taken to increase your odds of being awarded custody. For instance, if you have a past criminal charge of domestic abuse, you can attend a 52-week batterer program, attend substance abuse counseling, remain in compliance with probation, parole, and restraining orders, and cease to commit any further crimes. These steps can go a long way, but it takes work and guidance from an experienced attorney.
Contact a Los Angeles Child Custody Lawyer
If you are seeking custody of your minor child and either your former spouse has criminal charges against them, or you have criminal charges against yourself, it is imperative that you speak with our child custody attorneys at Furman & Zavatsky LLP to discuss your legal options. Presenting the evidence to the court, or taking steps to neutralize the criminal charges can help you get custody of your minor child. Contact us at 818-528-3471 to discuss the impact of criminal charges on the custody of your minor child.