The threat of losing custody of your kids can be a parent’s worst nightmare. If your spouse, significant other or someone else is pressing charges for assault, abuse or similar serious crimes, that threat can most certainly become an unfortunate reality.
In all criminal cases that involve custody battles, the court’s ultimate goal is to protect the child and keep his or her best interests in mind. That being said, while winning child custody may seem out of the question if you’re charged with a serious crime, it’s possible to retain your rights as a parent — especially if you hire a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense lawyer who can represent you in court. Here we’ll explain what to expect in a child custody battle … and how to overcome the challenges that come with it.
How to Lose Custody of Your Children
If you are charged with any of the following crimes, you may be at severe risk of losing custody of your children.
- Child abuse – It’s a no-brainer, but if you are found guilty of child abuse, whether that involves your own kids or another child, it’s most likely you’ll lose custody of your kids.
- Sex offenses – Any sex offense charge, including those related to Internet crimes such as possession of child pornography, can lead you to lose full custody of your children. If you are accused of a sexual offense, you will be taken into custody until you can appear in court.
- Battery and assault – Causing or attempting to cause harm to another person, especially in domestic violence cases, is grounds for limiting or revoking child custody.
- Drug charges – Drug-related charges such as trafficking and possession, as well as a record of alcoholism and/or drug abuse, can cause you to be deemed unfit as a parent.
In many of these cases, you may be taken into custody or issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) pending an investigation. A temporary restraining order can eventually be made permanent; however, you will have a chance to defend your case at a PRO hearing.
In addition to a criminal investigation, a thorough child custody investigation will take place in order to better assist the court and determine which parent can offer the best quality care for the child.
A child custody investigator will be appointed to impartially and fully examine the situation — meaning he or she is to maintain a neutral position and not work in favor of one parent or the other. However, if the investigator does find evidence that supports serious crimes such as abuse, neglect or physical/sexual harm, that can be used against you in court and will most likely increase your chances of losing custody.
The child custody investigation process can be a lengthy one and may entail an examination of your home, interviews with your child and/or observation of your interaction with your kids, among other things. It’s important to be cooperative throughout the entirety of the investigation — showing hostility or aggression does nothing to help your case. The goal of all of this is to retain as many of your parental rights as possible, so be sure to do everything you can to demonstrate your responsibility and maturity.
How to Retain Child Custody
There are certain steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of losing childhood custody and at least retain partial custody and visitation rights. Here are several things to keep in mind when involved in a child custody battle:
- Be responsible: Refrain from using any drugs or alcohol, continue to attend work (unless you are legally disqualified from doing so), and maintain a clean and child-friendly living environment.
- Show you care: While you may be unable to have any contact with your kids for the time being, showing an active interest in your children’s lives can help demonstrate your character in court.
- Demonstrate self-control: Resist the urge to bad-mouth your spouse or partner, and instead try to show support for them. It may be difficult to do so, but it will demonstrate your responsibility and maturity. Also, resist the temptation to show anger and aggression in any way. Be polite and cooperative throughout the entire legal process.
In addition to all of these points, the most important step you can take to retain your parental rights is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attempting to represent yourself in court can be a grave mistake, and you truly may not stand a chance against a jury by yourself or with an inexperienced lawyer. An established criminal defense lawyer with in-depth knowledge of your state’s criminal justice system will be able to give you the best advantage possible at keeping your parental rights.
It’s important to understand that even if you do lose custody of your kids, you may still be held accountable for certain obligations, including child support and help with your children’s medical expenses.
Call a Criminal Defense Expert
The reality is that if you are charged with a felony or another serious crime, you are at a severe disadvantage in winning custody of your kids. The goal is to at least retain some semblance of custody and visitation rights — which can be achieved by hiring a seasoned criminal defense lawyer. Colin M. Bresee has roughly 20 years of experience as both a prosecutor and defense attorney, meaning he has a firsthand understanding of the criminal prosecution process as a whole to give you an edge in court. Contact his law offices today to arrange for a free consultation.