How Criminal Charges and Convictions Impact Divorce Cases

Reviewed and approved by Kathryn Wayne-Spindler

Resolution of a divorce proceeding can be complicated, especially since the Court takes the wellbeing of many parties into consideration. Cases often involve financial support (child or spousal), child custody, and visitation. These are all very sensitive issues which need to be worked out in a way that is the best interest of a child. If one party has any sort of past and/or present criminal charges or convictions, those can be taken into deep consideration and explored fully.

Courts will take notice of any criminal charges or convictions from the past and/or current during divorce proceedings. Criminal charges or convictions can be considered, but so will the behavior and what kind of charges or convictions the party may have. This can create a disadvantage in said cases outcome for said party. A client’s criminal history and the facts surrounding their criminal record may have an impact on the court’s decision. If a client has a history of domestic violence there is a chance that visitation rights will not be easily obtained. Furthermore, if a client’s soon-to-be ex-spouse petitions the court for a personal protection order because of domestic violence or assault charges, the judge’s order could make the divorce matter more complicated.

It is not uncommon for divorcing couples to show the other party in the worst light or as the person who is at fault. This is where criminal charges or convictions could be used against one party in hopes to put the other party in a more favorable light. This happens even more so when one party has a criminal history, and the other party does not, even if the other party had participated in the same behaviors. Any attorney needs to work hard to support the rights of their client.

Things a Judge Focuses On

What type of offense was it?
How long ago did the crimes occur? Were there single or multiple incidents of the same nature?
Who were the victims? What were the effects of the crime against them?
What was the sentence? Was it jail or prison time and/or fines?
Has the defendant been accused of other similar crimes?
Did the crimes involve children?

Any type of violent crime towards children or other vulnerable people can severely hinder visitation rights. The court has the discretion to grant limited-period visits under supervision. If a person has a child abuse conviction or charge, the court may deny any type of visitation rights. The goal of the court is to act in the best interests of a child which includes mental, physical, and psychological protection from any potential threats.

The Court and Drug Related Charges

Any type of drug related charges are also very serious, but the passing of time can help in these types of situations. A drug conviction that happened many years ago will be easier for an attorney to argue, as the client has been clean for a while. It may also be helpful to have character witnesses to testify as to the person’s morals. The witnesses may be friends, neighbors, employers, family members, etc. However, if the charges are more recent, this will hurt the outcome of having the desired visitation rights.

If a person is addicted to drugs or alcohol, being awarded spousal support may become an issue. The courts have maintained that if a person is addicted to or abuses substances such as drugs or alcohol and cannot support themselves, their partner or family are not responsible for the person’s maintenance and expenses. But the opposite can be true to as it is considered a disease.

In the type of situations where a spouse is addicted to drugs and is known to spend the family’s money and assets to support their addiction, the judge may order an unequal division of assets. This system allows for people to get past their past criminal behaviors by offering opportunities and resources to correct the misdeeds. The courts may order a person to attend counseling and engage in parenting programs in order to grant visitation with their children. An evaluator may be appointed to the case to evaluate the parenting capabilities as part of the divorce litigation. Keep in mind, the parent who is ordered to attend counseling and have an evaluation done is often required to bare the costs.

However, there are situations where a soon-to-be ex-spouse has fabricated allegations of criminal and domestic violence against the other partner. This can be a tricky situation as the court may grant a Temporary Restraining Order preventing the other partner from approaching the soon-to-be ex-spouse or children.

The Court and Domestic Violence

For obvious reasons, domestic assault and violence can create a negative view of the accused person in the courtroom. Arguing against and trying to prove the allegations are false is very challenging. A person may lose their home, custody, and visitation rights to their children. The courts tend to take these matters very seriously and act very quickly. Therefore, the court will often order the offending partner to move out immediately and pay the costs of all expenses that the victims incurred for hospital visits to treat any injuries. If the house or property was damaged, the court may also order the person to pay for any repairs that are needed.

Domestic violence and assault charges are often handled separately from the divorce proceedings that are likely to follow.

The attorneys at Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates are experienced attorneys who change with the times to meet the needs of their clients. They have handled many cases where criminal actions are intertwined with family law actions. Contact the Milford, Michigan law office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates at 248-676-1000 for assistance. The attorneys of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates practice law throughout Southeastern Michigan including Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, Genesee and Livingston counties as well as four mid-Michigan counties Clare, Gladwin, Ogemaw and Roscommon. The attorneys handle cases in Milford; Highland; Hartland; White Lake; Wixom; Commerce; Walled Lake; Waterford; West Bloomfield; Linden; Fenton; Flint; Grand Blanc; Holly; South Lyon; New Hudson; Howell; Clare; Gladwin; Houghton Lake; Higgins Lake; and many more Michigan communities. Soon to be opening another office in Dadeville, Alabama.

For more information, please see article “How Past Criminal Charges/Convictions Impact Divorce Cases” by Ken Eulo on