Illinois family law judges always aim to make decisions that they believe are in your child’s best interests. When you and your co-parent split up, you can expect the judge to take a close look at your ability to provide a safe, secure home for your child.
With this in mind, it’s natural to assume that your criminal record could influence the court’s feelings about your parenting abilities — and it might. The court may weigh a number of different factors about your criminal history in its decision-making process.
What kinds of criminal records are most likely to affect your custody rights?
Generally speaking, older charges have less impact on custody than recent ones. Similarly, nonviolent charges are less impactful than violent ones. For example, a shoplifting charge that’s a decade old is unlikely to be held against you, while a charge for assault and battery in a bar fight that’s only a year old could weigh heavily on the court’s mind.
A past conviction for drunk driving could limit your ability to secure unsupervised custody — especially if your ex alleges that you’re still drinking. The court may fear that you’ll put your child in real danger or be unable to parent them properly due to your alcohol abuse. Similarly, drug convictions can make the court think twice about awarding you custody unless you can show the court that you’ve gone through rehab or cleaned up since.
Both domestic violence charges and a conviction may impact custodial arrangements. A judge will likely want to know whether the child was the victim in such an incident — or a witness — before deciding how the incident should play into any custody decision.
What can you do to mitigate the problems you may have with custody because of your criminal record?
While it’s unlikely that a criminal conviction will automatically or permanently bar you from obtaining or retaining custody of your child, it’s wise to approach the court with a plan. An attorney can help you better understand your options and develop a strategy that will convince the court that you’re a suitable parent and protect the relationship you have with your child.