How a Felony Conviction Can Affect Child Custody in Texas

Child involved in a Texas custody case

I want to help you obtain the most favorable outcome possible in your case.

  • Contact me today for a FREE case strategy meeting.
  • Available in-person, by phone, or by video.
Brett Pritchard Law

If you’re facing a child custody case – as a term of your divorce or outside of marriage and divorce – you undoubtedly have many concerns, and if one of them is your ex’s felony conviction, the matter is that much more challenging.

Child custody is a complex legal matter, and while the fact of your ex’s conviction is relevant, it isn’t always clear how it will factor into your terms. If you find yourself in this complicated situation, turn to an experienced Killeen child custody attorney for the skilled legal counsel you need during your case.

The Fact of Your Ex’s Felony Conviction

Many parents going through child custody cases believe that if their children’s other parent has a felony conviction, they will automatically be awarded sole custody, but it simply doesn’t work that way.

Texas courts consider many factors when determining child custody. If a parent has a felony conviction, the court will pay attention to that fact, but they’ll assess the charge in the context of the given circumstances before handing down orders. Every child custody case is considered on an individual basis, and a felony conviction, while important, may not be determinative.

Your Children’s Best Interests

When Texas courts rule on child custody cases, they focus on the children’s best interests in relation to their overall well-being, physical and mental health, and emotional development. In the process, they consider a wide range of practical factors like the distance the parents live from one another as well as the following key considerations:

  • Each child’s physical and emotional needs – including any special needs – and each parent’s ability to address these needs

  • The strength of the ties between each child and each of their parents

  • Each child’s preference – when it is considered age-appropriate

  • Each parent’s overall mental and physical health

  • Any history of domestic violence, child abuse, or child neglect

  • Any relevant criminal record on the part of either parent

Texas courts believe that the best way to support a child’s best interests is by allowing them to spend significant time with both parents. Texas courts only limit or deny parenting time in response to serious circumstances. If your ex’s felony conviction involved domestic violence, another brand of violence, child abuse, or neglect, it could curtail his or her parenting time schedule.

Child custody cases can become complicated very quickly, so it’s always best to discuss your case with a knowledgeable Killeen child custody lawyer. He or she can help you understand the factors that will affect your case, especially your spouse’s felony conviction.

Sole Managing Conservatorship

Texas addresses child custody in terms of spending time with the children, which is physical custody or parenting time, and in terms of decision-making authority, which is legal custody.
The kinds of primary decisions addressed by legal custody include all the following matters:

  • Decisions about your children’s schooling

  • Decisions about your children’s healthcare

  • Decisions about your children’s extracurricular activities and travel

  • Decisions about your children’s religious upbringing

Many divorced parents continue to make these decisions together, but one parent may be awarded a tie-breaking vote for those instances when consensus can’t be reached. Parents can also split these decisions between them according to category, or one parent can be awarded sole legal custody.

The parent who is with the children at any given time is responsible for making those everyday decisions that pop up on a regular basis and for addressing emergencies.

In Texas, sole custody, which means one parent takes on both legal and physical custody, is called sole managing conservatorship, and it’s the exception rather than the rule. Even with sole managing conservatorship, the other parent may receive some parenting time. The court will only restrict visitation or require supervised visitation if contact with a parent is considered harmful to the children.

The Primary Custodial Parent

In Texas, it is more common for one parent to take on the role of the primary custodial parent than sole managing conservator. The primary custodial parent has the children for the majority of the overnights while the other parent has a parenting time schedule. The primary custodial parent determines where the children make their primary home, but he or she needs the court’s permission before moving a considerable distance from the other parent.

If you are planning on relocating with your children, contact a Killeen child custody lawyer for guidance through your case.

Your Ex’s Criminal Record

Texas courts take a parent’s criminal history into very careful consideration, and some charges have considerably more impact than others. A nonviolent misdemeanor charge will carry less weight than a felony, and a nonviolent felony will likely lead to fewer significant child custody consequences than a violent felony or a felony involving abuse of some kind would.

If your ex’s conviction relates to violence, including sexual violence, against a family member or child, the court will pay careful attention and may seriously curtail the amount of time your ex is allowed to spend with the children or may require visitation to be supervised.

The court will take your ex’s conviction into consideration in the context of their criminal record overall. If the criminal record shows a pattern of unsafe behavior, it can lead to even more serious child custody consequences than an isolated event would.

If your ex has a history of criminal charges, the court may seriously doubt their ability to provide your shared children with the kind of safe, stable environment children require, and this can lead to serious child custody limitations.

If you are concerned about your ex’s fitness as a parent, it’s time to reach out to a seasoned Killeen child custody attorney who has a wide range of experience skillfully handling challenging cases like yours.

Supervised Visitation

Sometimes, Texas courts order supervised visitation to protect the children while allowing them to stay connected with their parent. Supervised visitation is ordered in response to the court’s concerns about the children’s safety when they’re with the parent, the parent’s ability to provide the children with appropriate care, and the effect the parent has on the children’s overall well-being.

When a parent who has supervised visitation demonstrates that he or she is able to engage consistently in responsible parenting, the court will take this fact into consideration. In response, restrictions may be removed, visitation may be increased, and the parent may build up to unsupervised visits.

Supervised visitation typically involves a neutral third party or a professional in the supervisory role, which involves monitoring the children’s interactions with the parent and, when necessary, intervening. There are several primary reasons that Texas courts order supervised visitation, and one of them is a parent’s criminal record.

Criminal Record

When a parent has a criminal record, the court carefully examines it. If the record translates to a potential threat to the children involved, supervised visitation may be ordered. Under supervision, the parent can interact with the children in a controlled environment that helps to ensure the children’s safety.

The parent’s past behavior has to be taken into careful consideration, and if the charge in question involves violence, domestic violence, child abuse, or child neglect, the court is far more likely to require supervision.

Domestic Violence

The charge of domestic violence is generally a third-degree felony in the State of Texas, and it is so closely related to the safety of the children and the other parent that supervised visitation is often ordered. Supervised visitation provides a secure environment that protects the children from potential abuse while allowing them to maintain a relationship with the parent.

Child Abuse or Neglect

When child abuse or neglect reaches the felony level, it is a very serious matter that the court will not ignore when determining parenting time. Because both child abuse and neglect charges focus on harm to the children themselves, supervised visitation – if visitation is allowed at all – is generally considered critical to the children’s safety.

Texas courts always put the safety of the involved children first, and in those instances when maintaining a relationship is still considered beneficial – in the face of past child abuse or neglect – close supervision is required.

Substance Abuse and Other Mental Health Issues

A parent who struggles with serious alcohol or drug abuse or who has another kind of serious mental health concern can jeopardize his or her children’s health, safety, and well-being. The court may order supervised visitation to limit the children’s exposure to drugs, alcohol, and mental instability and to protect them from potentially dangerous effects.

Risk of Parental Kidnapping

When a parent has threatened or has actually tried to abduct the children in the past, the court can’t ignore the associated risk, and supervised visits may be ordered. Supervised visitation may also be implemented in response to credible concerns about one parent taking the children out of the country without the other parent’s consent.

The Child’s Wishes

When the court considers a child old enough and mature enough to weigh in on the matter of visitation, it will take their wishes into consideration. For example, if a child is worried about spending time alone with the parent or if they express a strong preference for supervised visits, the court will factor this in.

Texas courts prioritize the safety and comfort of children, and when supervised visitation is on the table, a strong preference on the child’s part won’t go unnoticed.

FAQ about Child Custody

Your questions related to child custody and your ex’s felony conviction are a serious matter, and the answers to some of those questions that others in your situation ask most frequently may help. A seasoned Killeen child custody attorney will help you address any concerns specific to your case.

Can a Convicted Felon Be Awarded Parenting Time?

Texas courts base every child custody order on the best interests of the involved children, and part of this is taking any criminal history into account. If one parent has a felony conviction, the court will consider it in the context of how likely it is to affect the children’s overall well-being and safety.

Charges related to any of the following offenses can seriously limit a parent’s visitation rights and may cause him or her to require supervision:

The court will also be interested in whether the parent engaged in a pattern of dangerous behaviors, if the charge was an isolated incident that the parent has put well behind them, or if the matter is somewhere in between these two positions. While Texas courts are interested in maintaining ties between children and both parents, the children’s safety always comes first.

What If My Ex Is Dating a Convicted Felon?

If your ex is dating someone who has a felony conviction on their record, it may be relevant to your child custody orders. The amount of time the children spend around the new romantic partner and the nature of their conviction will both be taken into consideration. If proximity to the new partner could put your children at risk, the court may impose restrictions.

Does My Ex’s Felony Conviction Mean I’ll Receive Sole Custody?

The situation would have to be quite dire to merit cutting your ex completely out of your shared children’s lives. In Texas, parents retain parental rights unless they either give them up voluntarily or the court removes them. Texas courts are interested in supporting relationships between children and each of their parents – to the degree possible and whenever possible.

However, depending on the circumstances, the fact of your ex’s felony could support you becoming the primary custodial parent. If the charge is related to violence, supervised visitation could be required.

Seek the Help You Need from an Experienced Killeen Child Custody Attorney Today

Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard in Killeen, Texas, is a trusted child custody lawyer who appreciates the gravity of your situation and will leave no stone unturned in his focused efforts to resolve your case favorably.

For more information about what we can do to help you, please don’t hesitate to contact us online or call us at (254) 781-4222 and schedule your FREE consultation today.

Related Reading

Related Posts
  • Military Divorce and the Survivor Benefit Plan Read More
  • Texas Divorce Based on the Ground of Cruelty Read More
  • Sometimes Fault-Based Divorce Is the Answer Read More