The guiding factor of all court decisions made in child custody cases is what serves the best interest of the child. The goal is to place the child with the parent who is most able to contribute to the child's physical and emotional well-being.
If certain criminal charges have been levied against you while you are embroiled in a child custody case, the charges can negatively affect your case. The court can also amend an existing custody arrangement if developments arise in either parent's life that indicates that the child's safety is at risk.
In the state of New York, the court most closely evaluates criminal charges related to domestic violence, drugs or alcohol. When examining the affect criminal charges will have on custody arrangements, the court looks at the entire circumstance, including:
- The offense
- The relationship of the victim to the parent
- When the crime allegedly took place
- Likelihood that similar conduct could harm the Child
Domestic violence charges can include charges such as stalking, assault, battery and more. Because of the nature of these types of charges, concern can arise for the well-being of the child while in the care of a parent charged with these crimes. A presumption may be made that the parent is prone to violence or may not be able to handle his or her anger well. Any history of emotional or physical abuse can result in reduced custody, strict limits on visitation or a complete loss of parental rights, in extreme cases.
Drug and alcohol related crimes
Alcohol and drug related charges, such as drug possession or drunk driving, can also affect the outcome of a child custody case. The primary concern is that the child may be placed in a dangerous situation due to the behavior of a parent who is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. The judge may also question whether the individual has the capacity to function as a responsible parent.
Legal custody and physical custody
The type of custody that you are seeking influence how much of an impact criminal charges have on the outcome. Legal custody (involvement in the decision-making process for major life decisions) may not be at risk as much as physical custody. A judge will have to determine whether your charges may be indicative of your ability to make sound decisions regarding issues such as school choice, religious matters or participation in extracurricular activities.
However, physical custody entails having a child in your care as the primary custodial parent. Even though you may be able to provide for the child's basic needs, there may be a question of whether your child will be safe, or whether the other parent may be better suited to be the primary custodial parent.