Making mistakes is part of human nature. Unfortunately for some, these mistakes may result in a criminal conviction. When a parent with a criminal record desires residential time with their children, past offenses could come back and haunt them.

Whether or not a criminal conviction affects a decision for residential time depends on several factors, including the nature of the crime, the length of time that has passed since the offense, the severity of the crime, the age and characteristics of the victim, and if the parent has a single offense or multiple convictions on his or her record.

Parents convicted of sexual assaults, molestation, rape, or similar crimes are often not allowed to maintain custody of their children, especially if the victims of their crimes were minors. Parents who were convicted of crimes against their own children, like abuse or neglect, will rarely receive even visitation with their child, much less shared custody.

The more time which has passed since the parent committed the crime, the less likely that the offense will affect a judge’s decision to grant custody. If it has been several years, or even decades, since the parent has been in trouble with the law, a criminal conviction would be less relevant to a determination of residential time. For some severe offenses, it does not matter how much time has passed.

Finally, the number of crimes that a parent commits is relevant to determining if the children would be safe with that person. While a ten year old misdemeanor DUI conviction may not affect a child custody case at all, three DUI charges within the past two years would point towards a significant problem with alcohol abuse. In the same way, a parent whose multiple convictions show that he or she clearly supports themselves with a criminal lifestyle (i.e., by selling drugs or committing prostitution), would hardly be a fit parent for a child.

Washington State law requires a judge to look at several factors, and not just criminal records, when considering the best interests of a child. The court will strive to create a parenting arrangement which protects a child’s emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing, and will also try and minimize disruptions to the child’s life.

In addition to considering a parent’s criminal record, a judge will also look at many of these factors:

  • The mental and physical health of each parent
  • Any evidence of drug use or addition
  • Any evidence of physical, sexual or emotional abuse
  • Each parent’s past involvement and responsibility for the child’s life
  • Each parent’s lifestyle and schedule
  • The relationship between the parent and the child
  • The age and gender of the child
  • The child’s wishes regarding his or her living situation
  • The need for the child to remain in a stable environment

Often, a parent whose criminal past is behind them can be the primary residential parent of their children, because of the weight of the criteria listed above.

If you are concerned that your criminal record may affect your residential time arrangement, or if you believe that your former partner’s criminal behavior may endanger your children, speak with the experienced family law attorneys at Pacific Northwest Family Law. Our knowledgeable lawyers will help you advocate your position with both the court and your ex-partner, and will work to help you and your family move forward with your lives.

For help with your situation, contact us today by calling 509-572-3700.