Can a Criminal Conviction Affect Custody?

Can a Criminal Conviction Affect Custody?A Look at the Parents’ Fitness


A judge will consider many factors when deciding child custody, including the character and fitness of each parent. Accordingly, a judge might view a criminal conviction as a red flag. But before denying a parent with a criminal conviction custody, the judge would first consider the child’s best interests and how the parent’s conviction would affect those interests.


A criminal conviction alone isn’t enough to deny a parent custody. But the judge will look at certain aspects of the conviction, including:


  • The nature of the offense
  • The victim of the offense
  • How long ago the parent committed the offense
  • The frequency of criminal behavior, and
  • The nature of the sentence


Certain convictions, such as those involving domestic violence, will almost certainly affect custody. The judge would also look at factors such as:


  • Whether the parent successfully completed the conditions of his or her sentence, such as drug and alcohol treatment
  • Did the parent rehabilitate or commit more crimes after being convicted, and
  • Whether the parent made lifestyle changes to avoid making future mistakes


What Matters


Convictions, such as non-violent offenses committed as a juvenile, might not affect custody. A judge would also consider whether the conviction could affect the parent’s ability to properly care for the child. For example, if the parent was a felon and had a hard time keeping a job because of his or her criminal record, granting that parent sole physical custody could affect the child’s quality and stability of life. Similarly, if the parent could not offer a stable home for any other reason, the judge would consider the long-term feasibility of a custody award.


Will the Conviction Affect Custody?


New Jersey family law courts generally want to make custody awards that are likely to work out, as frequent modifications to custody can significantly impact a child’s security. Often, this means the court will err on the side of caution and award custody to the parent best able to meet the child’s needs at present. In reality, every custody case is different, and deciding on custody is not an easy decision to make. Thus, judges take care to thoroughly consider which parent would best serve the child’s best interests.


Overcoming a Conviction


If you are seeking custody and have a criminal conviction, you could benefit from speaking with an experienced New Jersey child custody attorney. An attorney can thoroughly evaluate all the facts of your case, including your criminal history, and advise you on the best course of action. That may be fighting for custody or for liberal parenting time. Arguing for custody with a criminal conviction on your own can be difficult. In these types of cases, in particular, having a competent attorney represent you can make a difference in how the court perceives you as a good parent.

If you are fighting for custody in New Jersey, the Williams Law Group, LLC is here to help. The experienced child custody attorneys at Williams Law Group, LLC can help you defend your rights as a parent and explore all options for child custody. Located in Short Hills, New Jersey, Williams Law Group, LLC provides compassionate and dedicated legal services to Union, Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris, Monmouth, and Middlesex counties, and the surrounding areas. Our knowledgeable attorneys handle divorce and family law, child custody, and child abuse/neglect cases. Call our office at (908) 810-1083, email us at, or contact us through our confidential online form to schedule a consultation and ultimately get you connected with an experienced New Jersey divorce and child custody attorney.

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