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Will Having a Criminal Record Affect My Divorce or Custody Case?

Do Criminal & Family Court Matters Intersect

You may know that criminal court and family court are two different things, and you may be wondering if having a criminal record will affect any legal matters you have pending in family court. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this concern. In some cases, yes, a criminal record may affect the outcome of a family law matter, while in others, it may not.

Some ways a criminal record may affect a divorce or custody case:

  • When a criminal charge is directly related to a divorce or custody issue
  • When the criminal charge is related to domestic violence or abuse
  • When a criminal conviction impacts the outcome of a family law matter, such as a DUI conviction affecting someone’s ability to fulfill their parenting responsibilities

What Do the Courts Look at When Considering a Criminal Record?

When a criminal record is brought up during a family court matter, the courts will typically consider the context of the criminal charge and how it relates to the family law matter. This may mean that the courts look at the criminal charge, when it was committed, and what has occurred since then, including any sentencing or rehabilitative efforts on the part of the person convicted.

In short, when the courts consider a criminal offense or record in context with a family court matter, they generally do so holistically and on a case-by-case basis.

Criminal Conviction & Tennessee Divorce Grounds

In particular, a criminal conviction and subsequent incarceration can be used as grounds for divorce in Tennessee. Under Tenn. Code § 36-4-101, one of the listed grounds for divorce is “being convicted of any crime that, by the laws of the state, renders the party infamous” and “being convicted of a crime that, by the laws of the state, is declared to be a felony, and sentenced to confinement in the penitentiary.”

What About Child Custody?

When the courts determine child custody orders, their ultimate goal is to ensure the well-being of the child or children involved. Consequently, a criminal conviction can significantly impact the court’s decision. This is especially true in cases where the criminal charge and its context influence the court’s perception of the parent’s ability to provide for the child physically, emotionally, and morally.

Things that may negatively influence the court when making custody decisions:

  • Evidence of past abuse or violence
  • Evidence of neglect or abandonment
  • Evidence of alcoholism or addiction
  • Evidence of serious or continued criminal activity

Again, it is important to emphasize that when considering criminal records in family law matters, the courts will look at all the factors in context with each other. This means that there is no easy answer to whether a criminal conviction will affect the outcome of your custody case.

What About My Spouse’s Criminal Record?

As previously mentioned, when criminal records come up in family court, it is the context of the issue that matters. For example, suppose a divorced parent remarries, and their new spouse has a criminal record. If their new spouse has contact with or lives with the divorced parent’s children, their existing criminal record may impact the court’s custody decisions for the divorced parent. Consequently, if you have a family law matter, and your partner or your co-parent has a criminal record, you should speak with an experienced attorney about the different ways it may affect your case’s outcome.

Send us an email to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced family law attorneys at Casey, Simmons & Bryant, PLLC.