How Does the Process of Sealing or Expunging Criminal Records Work in the Context of Family Law Disputes?

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Can Having a Criminal History Affect Family Law Cases?

Having a criminal record does not automatically disqualify you from obtaining child custody, alimony, child support, or a fair divorce settlement. However, a criminal history makes legal matters more complicated and difficult to overcome. In custody disputes, for example, a judge must consider what is in the best interest of the child, as well as the circumstances of the prior conviction. The type of criminal offense, how recent the offense was, the relationship to the victim, and sentencing may be factored into decisions and complex child custody cases. Similarly, criminal charges for domestic violence and assault could be used against an individual in their divorce case, alimony negotiations, and other situations.

Non-violent criminal convictions are far less likely to affect decisions made in family law courts. For example, a traffic violation or drug possession charge is less likely to present a challenge to parents seeking child custody than charges for battery, abuse, or assault. Just the same, any criminal history can potentially make you look bad in the eyes of a family law judge. If at all possible, it is preferable to avoid having your criminal history brought up in any court of law.

It is possible for those with criminal histories to have their parenting time or parental responsibilities restricted. In certain family law cases, judges may have the authority to prohibit any parent from using drugs in the presence of a child, require parents to attend treatment programs, require supervised visitation time, prohibit certain individuals from being present during parenting time, and order any other type of legal restriction that may be considered for the child’s best interest.

There is also a big difference between a drunk driving offense from several decades ago and a recent conviction for assault. A DUI doesn’t look good on your record, but how long ago it was matters. More recent offenses inform judges of the character of the individual in their courtroom.

But perhaps most of all, the identity and relationship to a victim of the crime is vitally important for judges. If there is reason to be concerned that the parent could bring harm to their child, either physically or emotionally, judges are likely to limit their parental rights.

What is an Expungement?

Did you know that one in three Americans has a criminal record or history of criminal charges that appear in their background checks? In Oklahoma, an individual can have a criminal record even if their criminal case was dismissed or if a court found them not guilty. In many instances, criminal records last forever and can impose substantial difficulties on those who’ve made mistakes in the past.

Expungement, or record sealing, is a legal method for preventing the public from reading your arrest records or having access to your court records. How expungement works varies from state to state. In Oklahoma, expungement does not erase your criminal record; it simply seals it away from public access and prying eyes.

Please note that while the public cannot read your sealed arrest and criminal records, police and other law enforcement agencies can. Also, your criminal record will still be detectable in government background checks and security clearance checks.

Expungement can provide a clean slate to individuals who’ve had their employment, education, housing, and other opportunities limited because of their criminal record. By getting your record expunged, your criminal history will not show up in third-party reporting agencies or background checks.

The requirements for expungement are fairly complicated. Those interested in qualifying for an expungement should seek professional legal representation from experienced criminal defense attorneys. Our law firm has extensive experience handling criminal defense cases and we would be proud to represent your interests.

What Types of Criminal Offenses Can Be Sealed or Expunged?

Not all criminal records can be expunged in Oklahoma. Certain felony charges and misdemeanor charges can be expunged from your Oklahoma criminal history if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • Your charges for a misdemeanor or felony crime were dismissed. Additionally, you must have no prior felony convictions and no pending criminal offenses, and the statute of limitations for refiling criminal charges must have expired.
  • Your sentence has been deferred. If you have received a deferred or delayed judgment for a misdemeanor criminal offense and successfully completed the sentence, you may be able to apply for expungement one year after the completion of the sentence.
  • You have received a deferred sentence or delayed sentence for a nonviolent felony offense and have completed the sentence. Expungement can be filed for five years after the dismissal of charges.

Can an Expunged Record Still Be Used Against You in Family Court?

While a previous criminal conviction will not be admissible as evidence in a family law court, whatever true facts of evidence related to that case can be re-entered into evidence in the family law case.

The burden of proof in family law courts is a preponderance of evidence, whereas criminal courts require that the facts be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. As such, a family law judge will want to hear about any allegations or past evidence of criminal wrongdoing that may be relevant to their decision-making in the family law case. The fact that a court decision was expunged from the record does not mean that the events did not occur.

It’s not about whether the conviction was dismissed, expunged, or sealed away. What happened matters.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Our Experienced Legal Team Today

Ultimately, criminal convictions can be used against individuals in family law courts with complex family law issues like child custody disputes, divorce settlements, alimony negotiations, and more. While an expungement can seal away records from background checks, prior convictions still matter. The relevant facts of an individual’s criminal past will be important to a family law judge deciding complex legal matters in his or her case.

Whether you have a family law or criminal case (or some combination of the 2 ), our law firm has the experience and know-how to lend legal assistance. Staffed by legal professionals experienced in family law and criminal law, Parsons, Graham & Day is uniquely qualified to handle legal matters such as the one discussed in this article.

To learn more about our legal services, please schedule your free, confidential case evaluation today. 918-553-5771.

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