Having a criminal record can negatively impact a parent’s chance of being awarded custody. However, the circumstances surrounding any prior convictions and other factors can influence how much impact any such convictions have.
Best Interests of the Child
Illinois law specifically outlines the factors that are considered by the courts when determining what is in the best interests of the child. This is the legal standard the courts use when making decisions about child custody or visitation. Factors that are specifically enumerated under Illinois law include any history of domestic violence against the child, any history of domestic violence against another household member and whether either parent is a sex offender. Additionally, the court can consider other factors, including:
- the preferences of the child
- the wishes of the parents
- the needs of the child
- the level of participation each parent had in making decisions about the child in the past
- the ability of the parents to cooperate together
- the distance between the parents’ residences
- any prior agreement between the parties
Additionally, the courts can consider any other factor that may be relevant to the determination of what is in the child’s best interests. Custody lawyers may investigate the case and make arguments that emphasize or minimize the impact of a parent’s criminal record.
Circumstances Surrounding the Criminal Record
The court may consider the circumstances surrounding a person’s criminal record when deciding what is in the best interests of the child. The court is concerned with the parent’s character and how any criminal conviction may affect it. One consideration is the identity of the victim. If the victim is the child for whom the parent is attempting to get custody, this conviction can have a direct impact on custody determinations. Similarly, if the victim is another child, the court may be concerned that violence may be inflicted on the child in question.
The court will also want to examine the nature of the parent’s prior conviction. For offenses that are violent, the court may have reason to be concerned about the safety of the child. Drug or alcohol convictions may indicate that a parent may not be able to create a safe environment for a child. The court can also consider how old the conviction is with the longer the time of the conviction indicating the less relevant that it is. The court can also consider whether the criminal record is indicative of a pattern.