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Criminal convictions and their effect on child custody

Many Missouri residents may not know that as of 2000, six percent of adults were convicted felons and if the trend remains the same, one in every 15 persons will have spent some time in prison. The repercussions of felonies are not unheard of but one aspect many may not realize is how it affects child custody decisions in the event of a divorce.

Custody refers to the right of parents to participate in making important daily decisions with regards to their children-this includes those about religious training, schooling, healthcare and education. Courts often make custody decisions based on the best interests of the child and this includes looking at many factors, including felony convictions. When considering convictions, the court looks at the nature of the crime, prior history, victim of the offense and nature of the sentence.

If the crime did not directly harm the child, the court may be more likely to allow the convicted person to participate in their child's life once they have served their sentence. This includes crimes such as embezzlement or tax fraud. A parent convicted of sexual assault, murder, child endangerment or a sexual felony related to a child may be less likely to receive custody or visitation rights to children and may even end up losing custodial rights.

When the court is considering whether the felony will impose a risk on the welfare of the child, parents involved in the custody dispute need to present all the evidence they can to prove their point. It may be beneficial to consult an experienced divorce attorney for guidance on how to proceed with the case.

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Joseph J. Porzenski
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