17 Oct 23

How to Get Child Visitation with a Criminal Record in Florida

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Last Updated on: 3rd November 2023, 07:11 pm

How to Get Child Visitation with a Criminal Record in Florida

Having a criminal record can complicate getting court-ordered visitation with your child in Florida. Judges may be concerned about safety issues. But a record doesn’t mean you automatically lose visitation rights.

With proper legal guidance, those with records can still get fair visitation. It just takes some extra work. Here’s how to approach child visitation in Florida when you have a criminal history.

Getting an Initial Custody and Visitation Order

If you’re establishing a new custody and visitation schedule through court, your criminal record will likely come up. The judge will factor it into assessing what’s in the child’s best interests.

Violent felonies and sex offenses especially raise red flags. But any crime could make the judge hesitant about your visitation time.

That’s why having an attorney is so important. A lawyer can argue for your visitation rights and present evidence of your rehabilitation and fitness as a parent.

They may recommend supervised visitation to ease the judge’s concerns. Or they may get your record sealed or expunged if possible to improve your chances[1].

Submit a Detailed Parenting Plan

A key strategy is submitting a thorough parenting plan showing how you’ll care for the child responsibly and safely during visits.

Provide specifics on where visitation will occur, how you’ll supervise the child, meeting the child’s needs, following court orders, etc. This shows the judge you’ve thought it through.

Having family or friends willing to monitor visits also helps. The more reassurance you can give, the better.

Focus on the Child’s Best Interests

Florida judges make custody decisions based on the child’s best interests[2]. So your argument must center on that.

Explain how spending time with you benefits the child despite your record. Share how involved you’ve been in their life and the relationship you have.

A guardian ad litem or custody evaluator can interview the child and give input on their needs. Their recommendation also influences the judge.

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Be Open About Your Past

Don’t try to hide your criminal record – it will come out anyway. Be up front and take responsibility. Show remorse and what you’ve learned.

Highlight positive life changes since your crimes showing you’ve moved on as a person. Things like sobriety, counseling, stable housing and employment make a big difference.

The judge wants to know your past won’t negatively impact the child. Convince them you’re in a better place now.

Modifying an Existing Custody and Visitation Order

If you already have a set visitation schedule, the process to modify it because of a new criminal charge is difficult. The burden is on you to prove a change is needed.

Minor new offenses like traffic tickets likely won’t affect your case much. But new felonies and violent crimes give the other parent strong grounds to reduce or suspend your visitation.

You’ll have to persuade the judge the new incident was a one-time mistake and you don’t pose any danger to the child. It comes down to their discretion, so a skilled attorney is essential.

Focus on Stability and Consistency

Judges dislike major disruptions to custody arrangements. So if the current schedule is working well, emphasize keeping things stable for the child’s sake[3].

Argue that suddenly losing time with you would harm the child’s well-being and sense of security. Fight to preserve the status quo.

Get a Favorable Psych Evaluation

A huge asset is having a child psychologist evaluate you and the child and conclude you’re fit to continue visitation. Their expert testimony carries a lot of weight.

A good psych report affirming you’re not a danger can reassure the judge during a modification hearing. It’s worth the money if you can get a favorable review.

Propose Alternatives to Protect the Child

Suggest ways to structure visits to prevent any potential risks from your new charges. This shows you’re putting the child first.

Proposing supervised visitation, not driving with the child, counseling, etc. demonstrates your commitment to the child’s safety.

Make your visitation contingent on complying with probation or parole terms. The more accountability you offer, the better.

If Your Visitation Rights Are Reduced or Suspended

If the judge does order restrictions due to your record, don’t give up. Keep showing consistency and progress in rehabilitating your life over time.

After a year or two of no issues, petition the court again to restore your visitation. Improved psych evals, probation compliance, and clean drug tests will help your case.

Stay involved in the child’s life through phone calls, letters, gifts, and attending school events. And get a good attorney to fight to reinstate your rights when the time is right.

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Special Considerations in Child Abuse Cases

If your record involves child abuse or sex crimes, visitation is very unlikely. Your burden of proof becomes extremely high.

You would need an extensive psych evaluation conclusively determining you’re not a risk. Even then, the judge will likely deny unsupervised visitation.

Focus on rebuilding trust through consistent counseling, treatment programs, and transparency over time. But getting visitation restored will be an uphill battle.

Consult an Experienced Family Law Attorney

Don’t go through this alone. Meet with a qualified family law attorney to explore your options. They know how judges tend to view criminal records in visitation cases.

An attorney can advise if sealing or expunging your record is possible. They can also craft the strongest arguments to reassure the court if needed.

With proper legal guidance, those with records can still get fair visitation in Florida. Don’t lose hope – keep fighting for your rights as a parent.

Let me know if you have any other questions! I know this process can be daunting but you’ve got this.