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Criminal records and child custody battles in New Jersey

On Behalf of | Sep 10, 2023 | child custody |

Child custody disputes often result in emotionally charged legal battles. The presence of a criminal record may greatly influence these cases. While having a criminal record does not automatically disqualify a parent from obtaining custody, it can shape the outcome of the custody battle.

Impact on parental fitness

The foremost concern for the court in child custody cases involves the best interests of the child. Criminal records can raise doubts about a parent’s ability to provide a safe and stable environment. The court will look at whether the specific crimes in the parent’s record indicate a lack of responsibility or judgement.


Courts typically consider a misdemeanor as less serious than a felony. In many cases, a parent’s misdemeanor record will have less of an impact during a custody battle than a felony would. However, the judge may find that certain misdemeanors warrant denying a parent’s custody rights. Crimes such as lewd behavior, DUIs and assault fall under the types of crimes that may affect a custody case.


Felony convictions are of particular concern. These crimes typically carry prison sentences and previous convictions may severely hinder a parent’s ability to gain custody.

Examples of felonies that may impact a custody case include:

  • Homicide
  • Aggravated assault
  • Stalking
  • Kidnapping
  • Sexually-motivated crimes

Charges vs. convictions

The difference between charges and convictions matters in a child custody dispute. Charges indicate an accusation of wrongdoing, while a conviction signifies that a court has found a person guilty of committing a crime. Courts typically place less weight on charges than they do on convictions during child custody proceedings. However, depending on the severity of the charges, a parent may file for a temporary custody order until the legal case of the other parent reaches a resolution.

Criminal records can undoubtedly affect child custody cases. Ultimately, the court’s primary focus remains on ensuring that the child has a safe and nurturing environment regardless of their parent’s past criminal mistakes.