When the court makes a custody determination, the judge is to consider the thirteen “best interest” factors that are set out in Minnesota Statute 518.17. These factors are taken into account for each proposed custodian, and the court makes a final determination by weighing each of the factors. The court cannot choose to ignore certain factors.

A History of Crime

The court is able to consider a proposed custodian’s criminal history to the extent it could affect their ability to raise a child. If a parent has a criminal history of violence, for example, even if it were before the child was born, it could weigh in the custody determination. However, if the parent has a criminal record that would not in any way affect the child, it would not influence the court’s custody determination.

One way this could play out is with prior drug or alcohol-related convictions. If a parent had an isolated incident in their past, such as an underage consumption violation, it probably will not be weighed heavily against them in determining custody. In comparison, a parent with a conviction related to abuse of an addictive controlled substance, multiple drug-related convictions, or convictions that show a pattern of relapse may have a harder time getting custody.

Each case is considered based on its own facts. The court cannot generalize about prior criminal behavior, and generally it will not unless that criminal behavior somehow directly impacted the child that is the subject of the custody battle.