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Barbara L. Jouette, Attorney, P.C.
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The impact of a parent's criminal history on child custody

In an earlier post, we discussed the basics of child custody, which is referred to as conservatorship in Texas. There are two different types of conservatorship in Texas: joint managing conservatorship and sole managing conservatorship. A JMC is where both parents share all of the rights and duties of being a parent; a SMC is where only one parent has those rights and duties. Although there is a presumption that conservatorship should be granted to both parents, the court may decide to grant sole conservatorship if one parent has a criminal history.

 It may seem unfair that parents' criminal history could come back to haunt them in custody disputes. However, courts sometimes find that a parent's criminal record is relevant to conservatorship, even if the criminal convictions had nothing to do with the child. The reason for this is that according to Texas law, courts must use the "best interests of the child" standard in determining whether to grant joint or sole conservatorship. 

Under the best interests of the child standard, courts look at a number of different factors in deciding conservatorship disputes. For example, courts consider the history of the parents' involvement with the child, the stability of the parents' homes, the parents' physical and mental health, and the willingness of the parents to support the child's relationship with each other. If one of the parents has a history of alcohol abuse, drug use, or other criminal activity, the court may be more inclined to grant the other parent sole conservatorship. Essentially, courts want to ensure that children are in safe and stable homes and are with parents who act in their best interests. 

Depending on the severity or nature of the crimes, a parent's rights may even be terminated. While each case is different, some crime-related grounds for terminating a parent's rights may include using the child to commit a crime, getting a felony conviction for a violent crime against the child, or being imprisoned for so long that the child is negatively impacted.

Child custody cases are difficult for everyone involved. Not only are emotions running high, but a lot is also at stake. If you are facing a custody dispute and have a criminal record, contact an experienced family law attorney to ensure your parental rights are protected.

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