In Tennessee, child custody cases are often complex and emotionally charged legal matters. If either party has a criminal history or is involved with a party with a criminal conviction, the case can become more complicated as the other party may try to use that history against the other. In this blog, we will discuss how your child custody case can be impacted if you have a criminal history and/or are involved with someone who has a record.

Can You Get Child Custody If You Have a Criminal Record?

Having a criminal history does not preclude you from having child custody or visitation. However, the court will consider your criminal record when determining the best interest of the child.

Tennessee's custody laws prioritize the best interests of the child above all else. According to the Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-6-106, courts consider several factors when determining the child's best interests, including "the moral, physical, mental and emotional fitness of each parent as it relates to their ability to parent the child." Thus, the court may consider the nature of the crime, as a violent offense (or a history of committing violent offenses) may influence whether they believe the child is safe in your custody.

It is also important to note that the Tennessee courts may consider any history of domestic violence, abuse, or neglect by either parent or anyone residing with that parent as a significant factor in determining child custody. If you were charged with domestic violence, child abuse, child neglect, or a related offense, the opposing counsel may try to prove that you are a danger to the child’s physical safety.

The court will also consider:

  • The child and parent’s current emotional connection, affection, and love.
  • The child’s preference (in instances where they are 12 years of age or older).
  • Each parent’s employment schedule.
  • Evidence of emotional abuse.
  • The child’s educational, emotional, and developmental needs.
  • Each parent’s willingness to attend a court-ordered parenting education seminar.
  • Each parent’s ability to provide their child with a safe home environment, food, clothing, medical care, and their unique needs.
  • The importance of continuity in the child’s life.

Certain Crimes & Offenses Can Lead to the Loss of Parental Rights

You should also be aware that a parent can lose their parental rights if they are convicted of sex trafficking, commit severe child abuse or child sexual abuse, or are sentenced to serve 10 or more years in prison when your child is under the age of eight. If you have lost parental rights because of a criminal act or conviction, Tennessee is not a state that has laws in place to permit the reinstatement of parental rights.

Can You Lose Custody of Your Child for Dating a Felon?

Parents may also wonder whether being romantically involved with someone with a criminal record will impact their custody case. As we mentioned, the court will consider your moral and physical fitness as well as the moral fitness of other party’s in your home.

In considering the best interests of the child, the court will also consider the behavior and character of anyone you live with or who frequents your home and interacts with your child. This means that if the convicted felon has a history of violent offenses or poses a threat to the child's safety, it could negatively impact the parent's chances of obtaining custody.

If you are involved in a custody battle in Tennessee and are dating or in a relationship with a convicted felon, consider the following steps to protect your parental rights:

  • Evaluate your partner's criminal history. Assess the nature of your partner's convictions and their potential impact on your child's safety and well-being. If your partner has a history of violent offenses or poses a risk to your child, consider reevaluating the relationship.
  • Consult with an experienced family law attorney. Seek legal advice from an attorney who specializes in child custody cases in Tennessee. They can help you navigate the complexities of your situation and provide guidance on how to best protect your parental rights.
  • Demonstrate your commitment to your child's best interests. Show the court that you prioritize your child's well-being more than anything else. This may include participating in parenting classes, attending counseling sessions, or taking other steps to improve your parenting skills.
  • Maintain a stable home environment. Ensure that your home is safe, clean, and free from any potentially harmful influences. This includes keeping your partner's criminal history and any related issues separate from your child.
  • Be prepared to address the court's concerns. If the issue of dating a felon arises during your custody case, be prepared to discuss your partner's criminal history and the steps you have taken to ensure your child's safety and well-being.

Let Our Firm Help You

At Conner & Roberts, PLLC, we are committed to helping our clients protect their best interests and achieve the best possible case results. If you or your child’s other parent has a criminal record or is involved with a person who has a record, our attorneys can advise you on how this can impact your case and what your best course of action might be.

Call (423) 299-4489 to discuss your case with our qualified child custody attorneys.