Criminal meets Family Law

How Criminal Charges Affect Child Custody in Alberta

There are many different ways that criminal and family law come together, and one of those areas is child custody. If you find yourself in court over a custody dispute, there are many different factors your judge will consider when granting custody. Can your criminal charges affect whether or not you lose custody of your child?

How Do Custody Battles Work in Alberta?

Under Canadian law, until the courts decide otherwise, both parents have equal custody of their children. Most custody agreements that end up in court are due to one parent trying to seek sole or “full” custody. This is because both parties are unwilling to compromise and cannot reach an agreement. In these instances, the court will determine custody and access to the children.

Questions about Alberta Child Support? Click here to read more.

What’s In The Child’s Best Interest?

So, how do the courts decide who should get sole custody? Canadian courts focus mainly on one factor, what is in the child’s best interest. They consider many different aspects in their decision, but, ultimately, they will choose the parent they deem to be most fit to provide a good life.

However, there are some of the factors the judge will consider, which are:

  • Which Parent Can Provide For Their Child Financially & Emotionally
  • The Relationship Each Parent Has With The Child
  • What The Child Wants (If They Are Over The Age Of 12)
  • How To Minimize Disruption In The Child’s Life
  • Who The Primary Caregiver Was For The Child
  • How Much Time Each Parent Has Available To Care For The Child
  • Any Special Needs of the Child, If Any

While these are some of the factors that a judge may consider during your custody battle, there is no set and clear standard for how major decisions in custody battles are made.

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Three Largely Consistent Rulings In Custody Battles

Three cardinal rules typically prevail within family court. Custody is generally granted for:

  • Stay At Home Mothers
  • Established Status Quo
  • Primary Caregiver

Stay at home mothers are typically assumed to have more free time to care for their children when compared to a father that works full time. As the judge is trying to minimize the disruption of the child’s life, in cases where one parent has been caring for the child since the separation, they will typically grant custody to them to avoid uprooting the child. Lastly, if one parent was the primary caregiver for the child for the duration of their relationship, the judge will likely grant that parent custody.

Information about Child Support and the Alberta COVID-19 Pandemic: Click here to read more.

Is A Criminal Charge Something The Judge Will Consider?

Criminal charges can seriously affect your custody rights as a parent. Suppose you are currently facing criminal charges for serious allegations, such as homicide, sexual offences, kidnapping, or anything involving child endangerment. In that case, your partner will be able to file for a temporary custody order.

If you have had a previous criminal charge, this could potentially affect your custody battle. Judges in Canada are allowed to use your criminal record as a judge of your character. However, the existence of a criminal record does not mean that your children will automatically be taken away from you. Depending on what your criminal charges are, it could show a judge whether you’re fit to parent. For example, a series of drinking and driving convictions could indicate that you are unfit to make good decisions and care for a child.

If you have a small criminal charge, such as shoplifting, it’s unlikely that the judge will even bring up your criminal record during a custody battle. However, if you’re worried, you can apply for a pardon, also known as a record suspension, which shows the judge that you have taken steps to be a law-abiding citizen.

A criminal conviction can affect many different areas of your life, including losing custody of your children. If you are facing criminal charges, don’t wait to contact our team. At Ross Lutz Barristers, we are serious lawyers that fight serious charges every single day. Call us for a free consultation to see how we can help. 

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