One of the first things a spouse going through divorce will tell us is all of the wrong things their spouse has done, especially if they have a criminal past. As such, we have had to deal with researching and knowing the rules around another person’s criminal record. It is safe to say that if there are issues regarding the children, your criminal record will be very important, including any arrests. When it comes to children, the judge will look at the totality of the evidence to determine the best interests of the child. Convictions of certain crimes cause courts to curtail or terminate parental rights. A parent convicted of child abuse, child endangerment or a sexually related felony involving a child probably will likely lose parental rights, and will probably have limitations placed on their parenting time. Likewise, violent crimes such as murder, and particularly murder of the child’s other parent, mandate termination of parental rights. A court, and your ex, will likely use these felonies to establish that the parent is unfit. As such, depending on the nature of the felony, the length of time since the felony, the occurrence of additional felonies or criminal activity, and other mitigating matters, the courts can and often do limit custody and visitation, now known as allocation of parental rights and responsibilities. Aside from parenting issues, the only relevance for the entry of prior bad acts, i.e. a criminal record, is to impeach a person’s credibility. According to Illinois law, however, and unlike the federal rules of evidence, evidence of arrests that are not convictions are not admissible to impeach one’s credibility. As such, unless there are issues of children involved, it would be wise to object, possibly in the form of a Motion in Limine, to prevent the introduction of any arrests or charges that were dropped and never became convictions. Furthermore, even the introduction of convictions can be hard to get into evidence and your attorney should be ready to object to any attempts to do so. If you are the spouse with the criminal record, it is wise to determine the best legal strategy to admit to a criminal past so it does not look like you’re hiding something, but at the same time mitigating the effects of a criminal record. A good attorney can help you avoid major pitfalls as a result of your criminal past, and at the same time help you achieve realistic results before any evidence of a criminal record is introduced in court.
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