If you have a standing family court order that pertains to child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, and other agreements with an ex-spouse, criminal conviction can potentially alter your family court order in various ways. Domestic violence and child abuse will almost certainly lead to family court proceedings, but it is also possible for criminal activity seemingly unrelated to a family court order to lead to modification proceedings.

Can criminal conviction influence family court orders?

In the event you or an ex-spouse are convicted of a crime, it is essential to consult your family law attorney as soon as possible to determine how this will influence any standing family court orders. It’s possible for criminal conviction to negatively impact a parent’s custody and visitation rights, which in turn influence child support obligations.

Domestic Violence and Family Law

The family court systems operating throughout the United States take domestic violence very seriously. It’s a common misconception that domestic violence can only occur within a single household. While every state enforces unique laws pertaining to domestic violence, courts generally uphold that domestic violence can occur between ex-spouses and family members who do not live together. If you are divorced and have a family court order, it is vital to know what you can do if you or a family member experiences any kind of domestic violence from your ex-spouse or other party beholden to the family court order.

Domestic violence can potentially influence a standing family court order in several ways. For example, if you have reason to believe your child’s other parent has neglected or abused your child in any way, you must raise your concerns with your attorney and the police as soon as possible. Prompt action can minimize the chance of your child suffering further harm and will bring the court’s attention to the other parent’s behavior. Your attorney can help you secure a restraining order that will prevent the abuser from coming in contact with you or your family.

In the event domestic violence prompts divorce proceedings or similar family court proceedings, this issue will certainly influence the outcome of the family court’s determination. For example, if you are filing for divorce because your spouse has been physically abusive to you and/or your children, the court must take these facts into consideration when awarding child custody. The family courts of the United States have a legal obligation to always rule in favor of protecting a child’s best interests. The judge handling your case will not put your child in danger if there is a clear record that their other parent has engaged in domestic violence in the past.

Criminal Conviction Following a Family Court Order

If you have a family court order and are later convicted of a crime, you could potentially face fines, jail time, and other penalties that may interfere with your ability to exercise your parental rights and fulfill your parental obligations. It’s very likely that your spouse will file a petition for modification if your sentence prevents you from meeting the obligations set forth for you by your family court order. You cannot supervise your children or exercise visitation rights if you are in jail, and your criminal conviction will work in your coparent’s favor if they attempt to secure a modification to your family court order.

When your recent criminal case is only likely to pose moderate problems in regard to your standing family court order, it’s vital to notify the family court of the issue as soon as possible. For example, if you are sentenced to a heavy fine that prevents you from fulfilling your child support obligation or spend time in jail during what should be your custody time, failure to notify the court and make alternative arrangements could lead to contempt filings against you.

Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights

Criminal action with a standing court order can potentially influence spousal support agreements and child support, but it is most likely to affect standing custody and visitation orders. When a parent is convicted of a crime, they could potentially lose their parental rights permanently. This typically happens when the parent’s crime directly indicates they are a danger to their child, and further contact with the child would not suit the child’s best interests.

Involuntary termination of parental rights is most likely when a parent is convicted of any crime victimizing a child or a violent offense. It is also possible for involuntary termination of parental rights to come into play if the convicted parent’s jail sentence is long enough that they would be unable to exercise any custody or visitation rights for several years.

Is it Possible to Regain Lost Parental Rights?

If a parent has lost their parental rights due to criminal conviction, there are no states that uphold legal mechanisms for reinstating those parental rights. However, it is possible for a custodial parent to consider the other parent’s time and atonement following their conviction as potential grounds for granting very limited visitation with their children. For example, if a parent lost their custody rights because of a serious drug offense or some other criminal act that did not involve domestic violence or harm to their child, they could ask the custodial parent for a chance to prove themselves as worthy of visitation. Since there are no legal mechanisms to reinstate terminated parental rights, this decision would come down entirely to the custodial parent’s judgment.

It’s possible for a custodial parent to return to family court to arrange for limited visitation rights for the noncustodial parent. Typically, these arrangements are very strict, and the noncustodial parent may need to agree to child support payments in order to exercise limited visitation rights. However, if the child has been legally adopted by a stepparent, this would negate any grounds for the custodial parent to request child support. Ultimately, situations like these are very personal, and there is no firm method of resolving such issues within the family court system.

If you are unsure how a criminal conviction could impact a forthcoming family court case, or if you already have a family court order and some recent criminal activity occurs, it’s best to consult an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can provide you with valuable guidance and support when it comes to addressing the matter safely and effectively.