I had a very concerned client in my office today who was new to the world of family law. She has been happily married for 8 years, and never dreamed she would get a divorce. Then out of the blue, her husband dropped a bomb on her and told her he is filing for divorce. The client had heard of our firm from her co-worker, so she gave us a call.
As we discussed the questions and concerns that my client had, she asked me a very sincere question. She said, ” how will the judge decide who gets custody of our two children?”
The answer to her question was that in California the legal standard to determine child custody is “the Best interest of the child standard”. Put simply, the judge will give custody to each parent, based on what he or she feels is in the best interest of the child. This begs the question, of what factors a judge will consider as indicators that one parent is more suited to maintain child custody than the other. The answer to this question is long and somewhat complex so I will answer it in multiple blog postings.
CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS AND THEIR IMPACT ON CHILD CUSTODY IN CALIFORNIA
First and foremost, if one parent has been convicted of a crime, then this will likey be a red flag to a family law judge. This is particularly true if the conviction is for domestic violence as the law in California is such that anyone convicted of domestic violence is presumptively unfit for child custody. This does not mean that a domestic violence conviction is an automatic disqualification from custody, but it triggers a legal presumption that must be overcome. This is not impossible, but can be difficult, and certainly requires the assistance of a skilled family law attorney.
Aside from domestic violence, any criminal conviction can be problematic. Just how damaging a conviction is will depend on the severity of the crime (misdemeanor or felony), the nature of the crime, and the recency of the conviction. For example, a conviction for a sex offense can be devastating to a custody case, for obvious reasons, where as a petty theft or marijuana possession conviction are usually only somewhat harmful and can be explained away by a good divorce lawyer.
There are many factors that can impact a custody ruling, and a criminal record is just one. If you have any questions about this topic or have a custody matter please call us for a free consultation.