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When can a criminal record affect custody decisions in Florida?

On Behalf of | Apr 15, 2024 | Family Law |

Parents going through a breakup or divorce have to establish formal arrangements concerning their parental responsibilities. In Florida, the courts generally expect parents to share authority over their children and to divide parenting time via a time-sharing arrangement in their parenting plans.

For most families, it is best for the children to have both parents as involved as possible. Even when there is a lot of conflict between the parents, allowing for regular custody exchanges and frequent communications with parents is important for a child’s social and emotional development. Still, there are a handful of situations that may warrant attempts to limit one parent’s access to or time with the children.

Can one adult’s criminal record potentially influence custody determinations in Florida?

Not all charges affect parental rights

Contrary to what people frequently assume, the state does not automatically prevent someone from spending time with their children simply because of a criminal record. Someone with a conviction for shoplifting or a financial crime probably doesn’t need to worry about the courts limiting their time with their children.

Still, there are criminal infractions that can raise questions about someone’s suitability for parenting time on their own. Felony convictions and violent offenses are the most likely to affect custody rulings. If criminal charges paint a picture of an adult who is volatile, highly irresponsible or abusive, that could affect the outcome of custody matters in Florida.

A prior conviction for domestic violence, especially violence targeting their children, might warrant a reduction in someone’s parenting time. Similarly, infractions related to substance abuse or impaired driving could raise questions about someone’s ability to meet the children’s needs and make appropriate choices during their parenting time.

The timing of the offenses can be a consideration as well. A single impaired driving charge from a decade ago when someone was still in college is less likely to impact custody matters than a drug offense that occurred a few months ago.

The parent introducing the criminal record of the other for the courts’ consideration may need to explain why they believe that someone’s prior record should impact the custody determinations the court reaches. Parents who have made concerted efforts to improve their circumstances may have less to worry about than those still struggling with the same issues that led to their prior arrest in conviction.

There is never any certainty regarding how the courts will respond to criminal allegations in a Florida custody case. As such, learning more about the nuance of Florida’s family law statutes may benefit those concerned about custody of their children.