The best-case scenario for parents separating or divorcing is often that they reach an agreement with each other about how they will share parental responsibilities. Pennsylvania parents can typically enter an uncontested custody order if they agree on all of the major terms for sharing responsibility for their children.
However, parents often find it very difficult to resolve their disagreements about how they should split up custody after they divorce or separate. They may then have to litigate their concerns in family court, a process that will require having a judge review a family’s circumstances and determine what would be best for the children.
If a custody case goes to court, what impact will a criminal record have on the outcome of the process?
Certain criminal charges can have a major influence
There are hundreds of criminal statutes in Pennsylvania that people could violate, many of which have absolutely nothing to do with their ability to provide a child with a safe and healthy home environment. Those who have a history of property crimes, tax evasion or other nonviolent offenses on their record typically have very little reason to worry that their criminal record will have any major bearing on custody proceedings. Minor offenses will only pose an issue if someone has very consistently had brushes with the law or spent a large amount of time and state custody.
Even then, that criminal record may simply result in one parent receiving less parenting time or decision-making authority than the other. However, there are certain criminal offenses that will have a direct impact on custody proceedings. Judges are required to consider numerous violent offenses, ranging from charges related to inappropriate physical contact and child abuse to homicide offenses.
If someone’s criminal history might make them a threat to the children, then a judge might limit their access to the kids or even grant the other parents sole custody. Such outcomes are relatively rare, and those with major blemishes on their criminal record can still secure custody if they can demonstrate that they have improved their circumstances and can provide a safe and stable home for the children.
Understanding the rules that generally apply during custody proceedings in Pennsylvania can help parents set realistic goals and better prepare for their family law challenges.