Before a North Carolina family law judge will make any custody determinations, he or she will examine several factors to determine what type of arrangement will be in the best interests of the child. The “child’s best interests” standard is a broad one that can include everything from the age and health of each parent to each parent’s school district to the wishes of the child. The courts will also take into consideration any history of violence or drug or alcohol abuse in the home. Therefore, it makes sense that the courts will also look
into each parent’s criminal past.
According to FindLaw, there is good news is. Though criminal convictions are part of the equation, they are not the whole of it. Also, the amount of weight a judge will give to a criminal conviction depends on the crime itself as well as whether or not the criminal behavior is recent or persistent.
For example, a drug possession conviction is not necessarily enough to render a parent unfit. However, a drug possession conviction in combination with a pattern of parental drug or alcohol abuse may cause the judge to think twice about granting the abusive parent any custodial rights. Likewise, a single DUI conviction over the past decade may not be enough to sway the judge’s decision. However, a recent DUI conviction with the child in the car may be reason enough for the judge to withhold custody rights.
Of course, there are certain crimes that may serve as automatic grounds for the termination of parental rights. A domestic violence conviction, even if the child was not the alleged victim, may adversely impact any effort a parent makes to try and gain child custody. A conviction of child abuse is often automatic grounds for the termination of parental rights, even if the victim is not the subject of the custody hearing.
That said, most judges consider the age of a criminal conviction. If your only criminal conviction occurred five to 10 years ago, and if you can demonstrate that you have since made the effort to reform yourself, the judge may not give much, if any, weight to the crime.
The content of this article is for educational purposes only. You should not use it as legal advice.