If you are a divorced parent, you know how meaningful it is to be able to spend quality time with your children. Regardless of whether you have sole custody or joint custody of your children, it’s essential not to do anything that could jeopardize your custody agreement. Unfortunately, a criminal conviction could have severe repercussions for your child custody agreement.
Though being convicted of a crime will not always result in you losing custody of your children in Virginia, many factors could influence how a criminal conviction will affect a pre-existing child custody agreement. The Virginia family law attorneys at Pincus Goodman P.C. have some valuable insights into how and when a criminal conviction could impact your existing child custody arrangements. Keep reading to learn more.
Factors Courts Consider When Determining Child Custody in Virginia
According to Section 20-124.3 of the Code of Virginia, the courts must award custody based on a child’s “best interests.” When making this determination, some of the factors judges look at include:
- The age, physical condition, and mental condition of the child and each parent
- The existing relationship between the child and each parent
- The child’s general needs and existing relationships with other family members, friends, and mentors
- The past and future role of each parent in the child’s upbringing
- How well the child’s parents get along
- The child’s wishes, within certain guidelines and limitations
- Any history of abuse or domestic violence
- Any other factors that the judge deems “necessary and proper”
That “necessary and proper” provision gives judges latitude to consider many factors when determining child custody arrangements, including each parent’s criminal history. Additionally, a parent or guardian can ask a judge to modify an existing child custody agreement based on any of these factors, though a judge is not required to modify a custody agreement just because a parent or guardian asks.
How a Recent Criminal Conviction Could Affect Your Existing Child Custody Agreement
Here are a few of the ways a recent criminal conviction could affect your existing child custody agreement in Virginia:
- Misdemeanors vs. felonies — The severity of the crime will make a big difference in terms of whether or not you could lose custody of your child after a criminal conviction. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, chances are your child custody agreement will not be affected, though it depends on the crime. But any felony conviction is likely to jeopardize your existing child custody arrangement.
- Violent vs. non-violent crimes — Any conviction for a violent crime is likely to cost you custody of your child. Your ex-spouse and the judge will likely not want your child to witness potential violence in the home. However, a conviction for a non-violent crime is less likely to affect a pre-existing child custody agreement.
- Alcohol and drug abuse — While crimes related to the use or abuse of drugs and alcohol are not violent crimes, courts do not want children in an environment where they could be exposed to these substances. A conviction for DUI, drug possession, or similar crimes could result in your losing custody of your children.
- First offense vs. repeat offender — If your recent criminal conviction is your first offense, you are much more likely to keep your existing custody agreement, especially if you were convicted of a non-violent crime. If you have a prior criminal history, though, a fresh conviction will paint you in a negative light and could affect your custody arrangement.
Talk to a Lawyer Today to Protect Your Custody Rights
A criminal conviction should not necessarily cost you your right to see your children, especially if you were convicted of a non-violent offense. The Virginia child custody lawyers at Pincus Goodman P.C. have extensive experience with custody disputes and can advocate for your rights if you have recently been convicted of a crime. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.