Can a Felon Get Joint Custody?

Felons can serve one to three years in prison. They are left with a good deal of their life left to live. This makes reentry into society important to having a worthwhile life after incarceration. Part of that can be reunification with family.

After serving your time you face major road blocks. They are housing, employment, and access to education. Successfully being able to overcome these roadblocks are key in getting joint custody.

You want to reunite with your children and take on a parental role in their lives. But,  your past imprisonment is going to be an obstacle. The reason you were incarcerated and the state where you live plays a major role. This will also influence what type of custody you are awarded.

Reconnecting with family is important in your attempt at reentry. Joint custody can be meaningful and critical to having a happy and well balanced  life. For a felon, it can be an important step to regaining your purpose after incarceration.

Joint custody can make a difference as to whether or not you stay out of jail. But, the steps to having an active role in your child’s life is an uphill challenge.  The courts will always decide what is in the best interest of the child. A judge can decide on visitation, or whether you will see your children at all.

There are various types of joint custody. You may or may not even have a choice as to which kind you are awarded.

For custody proceedings it is best that you seek advice from a family law attorney, even for mediation. An attorney will ensure your legal rights are protected.

This blog will cover whether a felon can get joint custody.

  • What is Joint Custody?
  • Factors Affecting Your Outcome
  • Remedies Through The Court System
  • Preparing for Court or Mediation

 What is Joint Custody?

Joint custody can take on a few forms. It can mean joint physical custody, joint legal custody, or both.

Who the child lives with is physical custody. The child may take turns living with each parent for a set amount of time. Each parent can also take turns living in the same residence with the child. This is joint physical custody.

If the child lives with the same parent full time this means that the parent has sole physical custody.  The other parent may or may not have visitation rights. This can be due to the other parent’s behavior in the past like child abuse or a criminal conviction.

Legal custody has to do with which parent makes major decisions for the child. These are decisions like schooling, healthcare, and religion.

Joint legal custody means that both parents share in making decisions for the child’s life. If you don’t allow the other parent to help make the decisions you can be found in contempt of court.

Joint physical and legal custody means that the child moves back and forth between the parents.  Each parent can also take a turn residing  at the same address with the child. This prevents the child from having to be repeatedly uprooted. Both parents share in making major decisions about the child’s welfare.

In joint legal custody, both parents make decisions about how the child is raised. The child resides full time with one parent. The other parent might be granted visitation rights which can be supervised or unsupervised.

You will need to check with the laws surrounding joint custody and its many versions.  They vary from state to state.

Factors Affecting Your Outcome

So, can a felon get joint custody? The reason for your incarceration is a major factor. You, also, need to be honest about your situation with your attorney.  The following are factors that can affect your outcome:

  • Type of crime
  • Victim of the crime
  • Age of the conviction
  • Nature of the sentence
  • Other convictions

The Type of Crime

There are certain types of crimes that make it very difficult to get joint custody. If the courts consider a child to be placed at risk you won’t be granted custody. Crimes like child abuse, child endangerment, and sexual assault will disqualify you. For these crimes, you might not even be granted visitation rights.

The courts consider domestic abuse and anything alcohol or drug related extremely grave offenses. For drug offenses you will be required to undergo a court ordered drug test. This will show if you have used drugs in the last several months.

Assault, battery, and weapons violations demonstrate anger management issues and a tendency toward violence. The judge will consider that the child will be endangered if in your custody. You might get visitation with restrictions or your custodial rights could be terminated altogether.

Victim of The Crime

Domestic abuse can make it impossible to get joint custody of your children. In some states the courts will hand down a domestic violence presumption against you. This means that you have shown a history of domestic abuse.  The court is legally allowed to assume you will be a bad parent. You may be awarded limited or supervised custody.

If the victim was your own child, you might not get custody or visitation. If you do, it will come with restrictions.

If you committed a sexual offense or a severe battery, your likelihood to commit those types of crimes come into question. Your custodial rights might be terminated.

Some felonies are considered nonviolent crimes such as white collar crimes. They could be embezzlement, tax fraud, or bribery. The courts may award you full custody after you have been incarcerated.

Age of The Conviction

If your conviction was a long time ago and it was a single incident it will work in your favor. If you are fresh out of prison the courts will not view it the same. As a matter of fact, it will weigh more heavily on the court.

Nature of The Sentence

If you have served multiple sentences you probably won’t be granted joint custody. You have demonstrated a pattern of criminality which goes to show character. This weighs heavily upon the court. It shows that you can not follow the law.

Other Sentences

With several convictions and long sentences, your getting joint custody is nearly impossible. The courts frown on this. It has the appearance that your children have been bounced around while you were in prison. The other parent may be able to demonstrate a stable home life. So, you may be awarded overnight stays or supervised visitations.

Remedies Through The Court System

There is a way to erase your record—like it never ever happened. You can get your record expunged. You should seek legal counsel from a criminal defense attorney. As always, be open and honest about your situation.

Depending on what state you live in you can get your record expunged or sealed. Expunged means your records are destroyed. You may be able to get your record sealed. However, if you were to commit another crime or be in suspicion of a crime, you record could be unsealed.

If your records are expunged or sealed, you can legally state that you never committed a felony. Imagine that. Being able to omit checking the box on job applications, rental agreements, school financial aid, and voter registration. Best of all, you get joint custody of your child!

In The Case of Florida

In Florida you can have your record expunged or sealed. However, state and federal law enforcement agencies will still have access to your records. Judges have access to your sealed records online.

If you are a defendant you might have to reveal your felony conviction. For example, if you are  trying to become a court appointed guardian.

Many employers will still have access to your sealed or expunged records.

In Florida, expunging or sealing a record does not update onto federal or private databases. Private companies can purchase the information from the counties and state.

Preparing for Court or Mediation

In any event you will have to go to court to get joint custody. You should prepare yourself.

Some things you can do is to get good sleep the night before and focus on what is in the best interest of your child. You should set aside any differences with the other parent. Be courteous, calm, and professional. Also, don’t stray off into other issues.

Be sure to listen to the judge and the other parent, and be willing to compromise.

You need to be able to show the court that you are doing the hard work it takes for reentry into society. Anything you do is going to be easier after successfully completing a reentry program. It shows that you are rehabilitated.

You will need to show the court that you are actively participating in your self development.  Going to school and/or getting a job can do this. You must demonstrate your ability to pay for the care of your child.

Other factors the judge considers are:

  • The age of the child
  • Your relationship with the child
  • Your relationship with the other parent
  • Any siblings involved
  • Whether you will foster a positive relationship between your child and the other parent

Even if you have lost all custodial rights you still have a legal responsibility to your child. This could mean child support and contributing toward health and medical expenses. If you don’t pay child support you could be fined, lose your driver’s license, or be jailed.

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