When we think of criminal charges, our thoughts and hearts usually go to the accused but many of us forget to think about how a conviction and incarceration impacts the families of incarcerated parents, or more specifically their children.
According to the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), “The arrest of a parent can be traumatic for many children. As noted in a comprehensive review of research on children with incarcerated parents, “The arrest and removal of a mother or father from a child’s life forces that child to confront emotional, social and economic consequences that may trigger behavior problems, poor outcomes in school and a disruption or severance of the relationship with the incarcerated parent that may persist even after the parent is released from prison.”
As a criminal defense firm, we deal with mothers and fathers facing criminal charges every single day. We understand what they’re going through and how a criminal conviction will impact many aspects of their family’s life. Since a large percentage of inmates have minor children, we frequently field questions from clients, such as:
- What will happen to my home?
- Will I lose my job?
- What will happen to my children?
- How will I provide for my children?
- Will my children receive public assistance?
- Will my children be allowed to visit me?
- What if I don’t want my children to see me in jail or prison?
- Will my child support payments automatically stop?
- Can my spouse divorce me while I’m incarcerated?
- Will I lose custody of my kids?
- Can I ensure my kids move in with relatives?
- Can my kids be kept out of the foster system?
- Will someone have to adopt my children and if so, do I have a say in the matter?
What Incarcerated Parents Need to Know
Every incarcerated parent’s situation is different, so what may apply to one inmate, won’t apply to another. However, there are common issues faced by incarcerated parents, such as arranging temporary legal custody, paternity actions, child support modifications applying to the period of incarceration, setting up a caregiver for the inmate’s children, formal guardianship, pregnancy in jail or prison, terminating parental rights, adoption, and legal rights regarding visitation.
If you are a custodial or noncustodial parent of a minor child facing criminal charges in Florida, surely one, if not several of the issues listed above will apply to you and your family. And, concerns over the welfare of your family are probably at the forefront of your mind, even before what happens to your car, your job, or your creditors.
While this is not an exhaustive, here’s a basic summary of what you need to know as a parent facing incarceration:
- To understand your parental rights while incarcerated, you should seek legal advice from an attorney. You should understand that judges, detectives, and court staff cannot answer your legal questions.
- If you set up an informal arrangement for your children, the caregiver will have no legal rights medically or education-wise, and family or the state can step in.
- If you set up an informal arrangement with a Statement of Guardianship (SOG), the caregiver may not have access to benefits for your child.
- Temporary Custody for Relative Caregivers is only available to certain family members. This may be a good choice if the inmate and caregiver have an agreement; however, the caregiver may not be able to get public benefits.
- Formal guardianship is the strongest form of guardianship apart from adoption, but the parental rights are not terminated. This is often ideal for inmates who are incarcerated for a long time.
- Child support obligations do not stop because parents are incarcerated. As soon as a parent is convicted of a crime, he or she should file a Motion to Modify Child Support with the court that made the current child support order. The court should not decide until after the parent is released, but any child support due after the motion was filed is subject to a downward adjustment or modification if the criteria is met. Otherwise, the child support will continue to accrue and the inmate will not be able to seek a reduction in the balance after their release.
Contact our Tampa criminal defense firm for a free case evaluation if you’re a parent facing criminal charges. We’re here to help you!