Divorce is almost never easy, no matter how much we wish it were. It can be even trickier when the separation is less-than-amicable, especially when your children are involved. Now you have divorce AND custody to worry about, never mind all the emotional work of parenting through this difficult time. What if your soon-to-be ex isn’t exactly an upstanding citizen? Surely, a criminal record of any sort dashes their hopes of custody, right? What can you do to be certain that happens?
Well, the short version is — no, having a criminal record does not necessarily mean there is no chance they will receive any custody, and there is no way to be truly certain about the outcome of your hearing. If you want the child custody process to run as smoothly as it can, you’ll want to understand all the factors involved.
What are the factors that go into a child custody determination?
We’re glad you asked. Every state is different when it comes to how a court determines custody and it’s never an easy or simple decision to make. After all, this is where the law decides on the course of your child’s life for the foreseeable future. Who they live with is also who they laugh, cry, learn, and grow with. You know this, your ex knows this, and the court knows this, which is exactly why it can only be so easy.
Here in Tennessee, anything and everything that could be considered relevant is treated as, well, relevant. This means everything from how your child interacts with each parent to how they’re doing in school to how well you’ve parented them up until that point could all play a role in a custody determination. In short, it’s because custody is about what is best for the children. And yes, this is where any prior convictions or criminal records would come into play, but the relevance is truly the key.
In other words, each factor is weighed against and alongside every other factor, so it depends entirely on what they are. If your ex’s criminal record consists of abuse or assault, anything related to drug use or sales, or any crime that could endanger your child, it will be relevant and weighed accordingly. Of course, given how serious those examples are, in those cases they would most likely not be receiving any sort of custody. However, if the crime is shoplifting as a teenager or jaywalking, it’s probably not going to matter much.
But my ex stinks! So now what?
Depending on how certain you are that your ex is truly an unfit parent, this is where your attorney comes in. The hearing isn’t done without any input from either parent; it’s just that the input alone does not determine the result. If you think a prior conviction should be considered relevant to your case, your attorney can work with you to try and make that happen. Even without any criminal records, this would still be your next step: gathering as much evidence and information as you can to present why you should receive custody.
Even custody itself is not clear-cut, though. There’s legal AND physical custody to worry about. As in, the decision isn’t only regarding where your child will live but also who will make all legal and medical decisions for them. So, whatever case you present, you’ll want to make sure it covers all those bases, so it’ll include not only why you believe you should receive sole custody, both legally and physically, but also why your ex should not.
Let’s say the only thing on their criminal record is petty theft of some sort, something that would normally not be relevant. But you, as someone who knows them better than us and certainly better than the court, know for a fact it’s only because they’ve only gotten CAUGHT once. Let’s say you know they steal for a hobby and don’t plan to stop if they receive custody, endangering both your child’s safety and their future. This would make that one charge relevant, and this could change things in your favor.
The good news is we can help. Not only are we skilled and experienced Knoxville family law attorneys here at LaFevor & Slaughter, but we also have a background in criminal defense. This means we know exactly how to present your case to make a judge pay attention. We’ll help you make it the strongest it can be while highlighting the factors you want to highlight. You know what’s best for your kids, and we know how to fight to make that a reality. So, if you’re worried about your less-than-great ex gaining custody in any respect, especially if they have a criminal record, call us today at (865) 637-6258 or fill out our contact form, and let us put your fears to rest.
Patrick Slaughter is an experienced Knoxville attorney passionate about helping families resolve legal issues including divorce, family law matters and immigration. Patrick graduated from Lincoln Memorial University – Duncan School of Law, summa cum laude and is a published author. Patrick is a member of the Knoxville Bar Association as well as the Tennessee Bar Association. Contact Patrick Slaughter at (865) 637-6258 or by filling out a case evaluation below.
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