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What happens to the kids when mom or dad goes to jail?

Being convicted of a crime and sentenced to jail is always a negative experience. But when the person facing time behind bars is a parent who has custody of his or her children, it is even more traumatic for all concerned.

When a custodial parent goes to jail, someone has to step up and fill that role. Ideally, it will be the child's other parent, but that is not a default decision. The courts are guided by the children's best interests, so what happens at this juncture is very similar to the process that took place when the original custody decision was made.

In deciding which parent should be the children's primary caretaker, courts mull many factors, such as:

  • Are both parents emotionally bonded to the kids?
  • What will the child's quality of life be if mom or dad is the primary caregiver?
  • Are the parents physically able and available to care for their children, or do they have work schedules or lifestyles that would not be conducive to maintaining custody of minors?
  • Are the parents financially able to provide for their children, e.g., feed, clothe and house them?
  • Does either parent have an addiction to drugs or alcohol or smoke inside the house where the children will live?
  • If the child is a preteen or teenager, with which parent would he or she prefer to live?
  • Would the kids have to change schools if they lived with one parent and not the other?

The above factors apply when custodial parents must serve time. If the parents cannot come to their own agreement, social service agencies may get involved, but ultimately the judge who handled the original custody case will make a determination regarding the minor children's living arrangements.

If you are a Kentucky resident who is facing a jail term and you have minor children in your custody, your family law attorney can assist you with transferring custody on a temporary or permanent basis.

Source: FindLaw, "What Happens When Custodial Parent Goes to Jail?," Christopher Coble, Esq., accessed Oct. 06, 2017

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  • Kentucky Justice Association
  • Kentucky Bar Association 1871 Lex Ordo Justicia
  • United States District Court Western District Of Kentucky
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