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Child Custody Determination May Decide Woman's Prison Sentence

Occasionally, child custody determinations and criminal proceedings are intertwined. One such example occurred in the Midwest recently and involved a mother convicted of possessing child pornography. The thirty-six year-old woman pleaded guilty to the charge, thus putting her custody of her two children in jeopardy. While the prosecutors joined the defense in recommending probation instead of prison time, the recommendation was based on her need to take care of her kids. If the mother is sent to prison, she will lose custody of her children.

But the judge in the criminal case has deferred the woman's sentencing until a family court judge determines whether she or her ex-husband should have custody of the children. If the father is awarded custody, the basis for probation would be moot and the woman's criminal court judge would likely impose a prison term. If the mother is awarded custody, the criminal court judge will probably sentence her to probation with no prison time. The judge in the criminal case wants the family court judge to make the custody determination based solely on what is best for the children, without regard to the mother's potential prison sentence.

In child custody determinations the courts apply the legal standard of what is in the best interests of the children. Obviously, when one parent is convicted of a crime, it raises a red flag that puts courts and the other parent on notice. Both custody and parenting time are put in jeopardy whenever a person is convicted of criminal behavior.

Most child custody cases do not involve such dramatic allegations of serious criminal wrongdoing. Some crimes or criminal charges may not warrant a loss of custody while other non-criminal events may. Parents involved in a custody dispute can seek advice from an experienced family law attorney. Local attorneys have experience helping parents through these difficult times.

Source: The Intelligencer, "Custody Hearing May Decide Prison Time for Teacher," Tyler Raynard, August 6, 2013

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