A child holding a parent's hand on a pathway


E. Gordon Peters, Jr Feb. 8, 2021

According to statistics from Virginia State Records, in 2017, there were an estimated 260,584 cases of property crimes and arrests and 18,645 cases of violent crimes and arrests statewide. In a custody case, a party’s criminal history may directly or indirectly affect their chance of being awarded custody by the Virginia family court. If you're trying to establish a child custody arrangement and want to understand how a criminal record affects your case, it is important to consult with an experienced Virginia family law attorney with criminal defense knowledge for proper guidance.

E. Gordon Peters, Jr., Attorney at Law, is committed to providing experienced legal services and comprehensive representation to clients in child custody matters. As your legal counsel, Gordon will review the details of your situation and educate you about your legal options. Regardless of your criminal history, he will fight vigorously to protect your custody rights, parental rights, your future, and best interests. Gordon proudly serves clients throughout Lynchburg and Blackstone, Virginia, and the surrounding areas of Amherst County, Campbell County, and Bedford County.

Factors Considered forChild Custody in Virginia

In determining child custody, Virginia family courts will make the child's welfare and best interests the priority. Pursuant to Virginia Code Section 20-124.3, the following factors are often considered:

  • The age and physical and mental condition of the child

  • The age and physical and mental condition of each parent

  • The relationship existing between each parent and each child

  • The needs of the child

  • The relationship of the child with other siblings, peers, and extended family members

  • The role that each parent has played and will play in the future in the upbringing and care of the child

  • The ability of each parent to actively support the child's contact and relationship with the other parent

  • The willingness of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child

  • The ability of each parent to cooperate in and resolve disputes regarding matters affecting the child

  • The reasonable preference of the child

  • Any history of family abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse, or domestic violence

  • Other factors as deemed relevant by the court

Effects of a Criminal Record

Under Virginia custody laws, having a criminal record can hurt a party's chances of being awarded custody. Unfortunately, in an effort to make one parent look bad or gain an advantage in the custody case, the angry spouse can pull skeletons out of the closet.

Although none of the factors considered in determining custody in Virginia (as mentioned above) specifically address a party's criminal record, the facts surrounding a past criminal conviction may affect the factors considered by the family court.

Therefore, depending on what crime was committed or the extent of the criminal record (whether they are a one-time or repeat offender), the other party may use this as leverage to aid their case. For instance:

  • DUI charges can show mental health issues that may affect the child's well-being or health

  • Time in incarceration can affect the parent's involvement or parenting time

  • Violent crimes charges can be argued to affect the parent's ability to maintain a positive relationship

  • Violent crimes charges, including assault, sexual assault, negligence, endangerment, could be argued to affect the parent's future role in the upbringing of the child

Even though the criminal conviction itself isn't a factor, any of the above situations can indirectly affect the determination of child custody or parental responsibilities.

How Domestic Violence Affects Custody

Under Virginia law, domestic violence is an action by a family member that involves violence, force, or threats that cause physical injury or reasonable fear of physical injury to a child or an adult in the household. Such family members may include current or former spouses, in-laws, roommates, or a person you share a child with.

While a criminal conviction doesn't directly affect child custody, there are certain exceptions for domestic violence under Virginia law. If a judge finds a history of domestic violence, restrictions could be placed on the visitation rights of the abusive parent. This may result in "supervised visitation" — in which all visitation between the child and parent are supervised by a designated third party. In extreme cases, the judge may permanently terminate all parental rights, including physical and legal custody.

Work with an Experienced Attorney

Establishing child custody arrangements and allocating parenting time in Virginia can involve several complexities. The entire process can become more difficult and overwhelming, especially when you have a criminal history. Therefore, when trying to establish custody with a criminal record, consulting with a Virginia criminal defense attorney with experience in family law matters is crucial to protect your rights.

E. Gordon Peters, Jr., Attorney at Law has devoted his career to handling matters of family law, including child custody cases. As a knowledgeable family law attorney, Gordon will help you understand the circumstances surrounding your unique situation, develop an effective strategy, and explain your legal options. He will work diligently with all parties involved to work toward a fair parenting arrangement while protecting your best interests.

Contact E. Gordon Peters, Jr., Attorney at Law, to schedule a one-on-one case assessment. Attorney Gordon Peters proudly serves clients throughout Lynchburg, Blackstone, Amherst County, Campbell County, and Bedford County, Virginia. Call today to speak with a knowledgeable Virginia child custody attorney.