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Michigan Criminal Law Blog

How Criminal Charges Affect Your Custody Rights

When the family court system makes decisions about the custody of a child, they look at all aspects of the child’s life and try to determine what is going to be the best, healthiest environment for the child. If both parents are able to provide a loving, stable environment, the court will do all it can to create a joint custody situation in which the child spends significant amounts of time with each parent.

Unfortunately, there are many cases in which the court determines an environment is less-than-stable and limits or prevents a parent from seeing his or her child. A parent with a criminal history will likely raise the court’s concern and it could result in limiting the time that parent has with the child.

Will I Still Get to See My Child?

If you have a criminal history or you’re involved in a crime during or after a custody battle, you shouldn’t automatically assume you’ll lose your right to see your child.

Chances are, as long as the offense is unrelated to your child’s well-being (with a few exceptions), you’ll still be able to spend time with your child, but that time might require supervision. Even if you are forced to go to jail, your child will still be given the opportunity to visit you during your incarceration.

To learn more about parental rights of incarcerated individuals, visit

Family court considers a variety of factors when determining whether or not the charges should affect a custody arrangement. For instance, it will take into account the offense you’re accused of committing, the alleged victim, the nature of any sentence that might occur, and whether or not you’ve committed crimes in the past. If the charges in question happened in the past, the court will also take into account how long ago the event occurred.

Crimes Committed Against Your Child

It should be noted that if the charges against you involve your own children, your custody and visitation rights will most certainly be limited. If the court believes time spent with you could put your child at risk, they will do everything possible to prevent a future incident from occurring.

And if the charges relate to sexual abuse or put your child’s life at risk, it’s possible the court will terminate all of your parental rights.

Charges that involve domestic violence, even if it did not directly affect your child, and/or alcohol or drug abuse tend to have a greater impact on custody and visitation arrangements than other charges because the court believes these pose a higher risk for the safety of a child. Some courts even go so far as to automatically limit time you can spend with your child if a history of domestic violence has been established. Drug and OWI convictions can also have a major impact on custody because judges tend to assume you’re dangerous behavior will put your child’s safety at risk.

You Need an Attorney to Protect Your Parental Rights

The best thing you can do if you are charged with a crime and you have concerns about custody or visitation with your child is to contact an attorney. He or she can not only help you with the criminal charges if they are current, but also help you retain your parental rights. This is true even if the charges against you happened several years ago. It might be necessary to work with both a criminal attorney and a family law attorney to ensure you get the best guidance possible.

For more information or to discuss your specific circumstances and how they might affect your visitation or custody rights, contact Andrew W. Kowalkowski, PLLC at 248.974.9594.

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