How Incarceration Affects Child Custody
Published July 16, 2020
Getting convicted of a crime is never easy, especially when you’re a parent responsible for more than your own life. Incarceration significantly changes the entire balance of both your life and your child’s. It affects child support, visitation, and custody for the incarcerated parent.
If one parent goes to jail, does the other parent automatically get custody?
Custody can depend on several factors. The first is if any arrangements were made after the parent was convicted. The court then proceeds with the prior agreements if they’re in the best interest of the child. Here’s a list of guide questions as to what “best interest” means.
If none were made, the other parent could claim custody rights if the court sees them fit. Should the other parent be unfit, the court may assign the child to another relative or place them in foster care.
Does incarceration terminate the incarcerated parent’s custody rights?
Not necessarily. Depending on the gravity of the conviction, the court could temporarily suspend the parent’s rights until they finish their term. The length of the incarcerated parent is also crucial in determining custody rights. These two factors generally determine whether the incarcerated parent may keep custody.
What can terminate the incarcerated parent’s custody rights?
While incarceration does not immediately revoke a parent’s custody rights, the following may be cases to terminate those rights:
- If the conviction is a violent or sexual crime, such as murder or assault
- The parent’s criminal record shows a history of criminal behavior, which is likely to lead to future incarcerations.
- If maintaining a close relationship with the incarcerated parent appears detrimental to the child’s development
- If the term the incarcerated parent serves takes up a vast majority of their child’s minor years, sole custody may be given to the other parent.
What about parental responsibility and consent?
It’s common for many activities and decisions in a minor’s life to require parent’s approval or consent. As long as the court has not terminated the incarcerated parent’s rights to this, the parents can share responsibilities. However, the custodial parent can file for the court to terminate these rights.
Will incarceration affect visitation?
A lot of this depends on the custodial parent. While incarceration takes away many civil rights, visitation is not one of them. In many cases, in-person visitation is allowed as long as the custodial parent allows it. Contact in the form of mail and calls is also under the custodial parent’s discretion.
How else will incarceration affect my child?
Parental incarceration has effects that reach beyond legal implications. It has effects on emotional and psychosocial development in children, as well. Studies show that many children develop trauma and nightmares after witnessing their parents get arrested.
Incarceration of a parent often leads to the following emotional effects:
- Psychological Strain
- Antisocial Behavior
- Economic difficulty
- Criminal activity
But this doesn’t translate to all cases. It may depend on the bond between the incarcerated parent and child, and the social support system around the child.
You can see what kind of impact incarceration has on a child. All the legal disputes can cause a lot of unwanted burdens on a minor. I hope, as a parent, you think long and hard before doing anything because it’s not just your life that’s in your hands.
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About The Author
Terrence Tan Ting is an industrial engineer by profession but a full time writer by passion. He loves to write about a wide range of topics from many different industries thanks to his undying curiosity.