Going through a divorce is stressful, particularly when you and your ex dispute who should have custody of the children. If you are gearing up for a custody fight, you might be worried that your ex will use your criminal record against you. This is a valid concern, but not one that should prevent you from aggressively fighting for your parental rights.
General Child Custody Principals
If you and your ex had a child together, then both of you should have custody even after you split. In Georgia, custody can be divided into legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody gives you the right to make decisions about your child’s education and medical treatment. Physical custody, by contrast, refers to your right to have your child physically with you. One or both parents might want to raise the child alone, so this parent will have to go into court and argue for sole custody, either sole legal custody or sole physical custody (or both). However, if both parents are happy splitting custody, then there is no reason for either parent to seek sole custody.
The Best Interest of the Child
Regularly, parents cannot agree on custody. For example, one parent might want physical custody while granting the other parent only visitation. A custody fight will quickly ensue, and only a judge can resolve the dispute.
When deciding which parent should get custody, Georgia judges do not presume that either the mother or father is better suited for raising a child. Instead, they analyze what is in the best interests of the child based on the following factors:
• The emotional ties each parent has with the child.
• Each parent’s ability to give love and guidance to the child.
• Each parent’s past performance as a parent.
• The ability of each parent to provide necessities to the child.
• Whether a parent’s home environment is safe and loving.
• Each parent’s mental and physical health
• The stability of each parent’s home.
• Evidence of family violence or mental, physical, or sexual child abuse.
• Each parent’s criminal history.
How a Criminal Conviction Comes into Play
When analyzing what is in the child’s best interest, a judge will certainly look at your criminal history. For example, you might have a conviction for child endangerment or domestic violence. These types of convictions will look really bad to a judge, and you could lose custody based on those convictions. Other convictions, like shoplifting, might not worry a judge as much. Nevertheless, you should always prepare to explain why the conviction does not represent who you are today. For example, you should:
• Emphasize that you have changed since the conviction. You might have received treatment for anger or substance abuse. Gather evidence, such as completion of a 12-step program, and present this evidence to the judge.
• Highlight if the conviction is old. The older the conviction, the less it should sway the judge.
Ultimately, how you present your criminal history will depend on the circumstances. Because no two cases are exactly alike, you should meet with a qualified Georgia family law attorney to come up with an approach tailored to your individual circumstances.
Contact an Alpharetta Family Law Attorney Today
Child custody disputes are emotionally draining and legally complex. You should not handle them alone. For a free consultation, contact Mitnick & Associates at 770-408-7000 or fill out our online contact form. We also serve Milton, Johns Creek, Cumming, and Roswell.