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Pending Criminal Charges and Child Custody in Colorado

A history of crime could impact your child custody case in Colorado. All child custody matters boil down to one main consideration: what is in the best interest of the child. If a criminal record demonstrates to a judge that you may put your children at risk in any way, it could impact his or her decision on custody matters. With criminal charges pending against you, a judge may rule in the other spouse’s favor. Should the criminal courts dismiss the charges against you, however, you may be able to file a request to modify the custody order.

Your Criminal Record Will Be Part of a Divorce Trial

It is impossible to conceal your criminal past from a judge during a child custody trial. Your record is public and an important piece of your past in the eyes of the family courts. The best you can do is to seal your criminal record, which may be an option if the courts convicted you of a petty offense, minor violation or crime involving certain drugs. A sealed or expunged record could help your custody case by showing a judge you did not commit a major offense or completed probation.

If the criminal charges against you are still pending, a judge may wait to make a custody decision until the resolution of your criminal case. It is possible that a criminal courtroom will drop the charges against you or find you not guilty. In these cases, you may not have to worry as much about a criminal history impacting your child custody case. If, however, the criminal courts do not rule in your favor, a judge will consider your propensity toward crime when determining custody. If a custody case must proceed while criminal charges are still pending, it could hurt your odds of a positive outcome.

How a Judge Decides Custody in Colorado

The Colorado courts refer to child custody as parental responsibilities. Parental responsibilities include physical custody of the children and the right to make important life decisions for them, such as education and health care. It can also refer to visitation rights for a noncustodial parent and/or grandparents. Parental responsibility court decisions center on the standard of a child’s best interest.

  • Each parent’s relationship with the child
  • Children’s connections to the community
  • Parents’ wishes
  • Children’s wishes (in some cases, if children are old enough)
  • Both parents’ abilities to care for children

A judge will rule according to what would be best for the children. Each parent’s character and habits are relevant in this consideration. A judge will hear testimony from character witnesses and review things such as each parent’s criminal record, history of domestic violence and drug or alcohol dependencies. Pending criminal charges may or may not impact your custody case depending on the identity of the victim, nature of the offense and whether it was your first encounter with the law.

Modifying Your Custody Order in Colorado

A pending charge is not a criminal conviction. If a judge has already decided against you in a custody matter, but the criminal justice system in Fort Collins drops the charges against you, you may be able to fight for a better outcome. A judge may agree to modify your custody order if doing so suits the best interests of the children. Receiving an order modification will take proving that your situation has significantly changed since the date of the first order; for example, dropped charges, an expunged record or the completion of your sentence.

A judge will still take your criminal history into account when deciding child custody. If you or your lawyer can convince that different custody or visitation rights are in the child’s best interest, however, the judge may agree to modify the original order. Hiring an attorney and staying out of legal trouble can optimize your odds of a positive parental responsibilities agreement, as can proving you can provide a safe and stable environment for your children.

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