Why would the courts be involved in my family matters?

There are so many different reasons that courts get involved in family matters. Examples of when courts get involved include cases of divorce or legal separation; cases about paternity/parentage; disagreements about custody, visitation, or child support; when one or both parents are no longer able to care for a child because they are sick, disabled, incarcerated, or passed away; or the court is supervising a child’s care due to allegations of abuse or neglect.

In most cases, incarceration will affect your relationship with your family, and the courts may end up getting involved to decide who should have the legal right to make decisions about your child or grandchild, and who should be able to visit or care for your child or grandchild. While you are/were incarcerated, it’s possible that there were changes in your child’s care that had nothing to do with your actual conviction, but the courts got involved either because there was already an open case about the child, someone asked the court to get involved, OR the county’s Child Protective Services (CPS) deemed it necessary for the court to oversee the care of your child because of abuse or neglect allegations.

If a court case is opened about the care of your child, it is important to know that everything in your criminal record will be available to the judge in that case. But the judge doesn’t look only at your criminal record; s/he looks at your record as one factor among MANY factors about whom is best suited to care for your child, and what is in the child’s “best interest.” To learn about the convictions that may ban you from reunifying with a child, see the chart on PG. 726. To learn more about the factors a judge looks at in making decisions about a child’s care, see the next question!