How does his felony conviction (or her boyfriend’s wrap sheet) affect child custody?
The main goal for the judge in a child custody case is to determine what is in the best interest of the child. Judges look to the twenty factors listed in § 61.30(3)(a-t), Florida Statute, to determine what is in the best interest of the child. If a parent has a history of criminal conduct, several of the factors may weigh heavily against them. Some examples of the factors that may specifically be affected by a parent’s history of criminal conduct are:
(a) The length of time the child has lived in a stable, satisfactory environment and the desirability of maintaining continuity;
(b) The moral fitness of the parents;
(c) The mental and physical health of the parents;
(d) Evidence of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect, regardless of whether a prior or pending action relating to those issues has been brought;
(e) Evidence that either parent has knowingly provided false information to the court regarding any prior or pending action regarding domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse, child abandonment, or child neglect;
(f) The demonstrated capacity and disposition of each parent to maintain an environment for the child which is free from substance abuse; and
(g) Any other factor that is relevant to the determination of a specific parenting plan, including the time-sharing schedule.
While judges do not take a parent’s criminal history lightly, especially when considering what is in the best interest of a child, they will typically still consider a few aspects in order to determine how a parent’s criminal history should affect their custody and timesharing. Some examples of what a judge may look into and inquire regarding a parent’s criminal history are: (1) the type(s) of offense(s) they’ve been convicted of; (2) how recently the latest offense occurred; and (3) how many convictions a parent has had. Realistically, when determining parental character and capabilities and how much parenting time is best for the child, a judge will likely consider an arrest for public intoxication from college very differently from a second DUI within the last month.
Judges have the discretion to incorporate limitations in the type of timesharing a parent is able to exercise by implementing supervised timesharing, or terminating parental rights altogether. Judges will typically order for timesharing to be supervised by a third party, chosen by either the parties or the judge, for parents who have a history of drug or alcohol abuse or addiction (or have been convicted of a DUI), until they can prove that the supervision is not necessary and they can be trusted to be sober while exercising their parenting time. Meanwhile, there are certain types of crimes which will cause the judge to consider terminating all parental rights. These crimes might include sexual abuse, offenses against a minor, domestic violence, or causing life-threatening or severe injuries to another.
Ultimately, there is no hard and fast law for what a judge must rule when deciding on custody and timesharing for parents with a criminal history. While judges will always look at the best interest factors and a parent’s criminal history may tip the scale towards the other parent, each case is different and no one’s circumstances are exactly the same. Luckily, judges have several options for these situations, such as giving one parent less timesharing than the other, ordering a parent to have their timesharing supervised by a third party, and terminating parental rights completely. If a parent has a criminal history and is worried about the possible implications their past crimes may bring, they should contact a criminal defense or DUI lawyer in Tallahassee, in addition to a Tallahassee family lawyer.