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Protecting Your Family with Background Checks

A black-and-white comic by Mark Anderson. A woman behind a desk on the left is speaking to a man in an armchair on the right. The man has a glowing halo above his head. The woman is saying "Normally, we do a background check, but..."
Courtesy of Andertoons

By: Jacqueline D. Cannon

Background checks. You have to have one done in order to get certain jobs, purchase guns, become a citizen or obtain a passport. Yet, many people do not ever consider running background checks for another far more important reason: their own or their family's safety.

Throughout my career, I have had numerous clients who did not know the person they were dating, married to, or had a child with either had a criminal history or had a more extensive history than they were led to believe existed. Not knowing the criminal history of a person can have serious consequences for you or your child(ren) in the future.

For instance, I did a consultation with a person a few years ago who had a young daughter. After several months of dating a man she thought was a great guy, they moved in together. The mother did not do a background check, and he had given her no reason to believe he was anything but the good upstanding citizen he claimed to be. After a few months of living together, the child's father filed a suit against her and asked the court to award him custody of the young girl. The father had done a background check on the boyfriend and discovered he was actually a convicted sex offender whose victim was only a few years older than his daughter. The mother was understandably distraught at the thought that not only could she lose custody of her daughter to the child's father, but that she had unknowingly allowed her daughter to reside with a sex offender.

We would all like to think we would never be that person; that we would never unknowingly date a criminal or sex offender, let alone allow one to live with us. The unfortunate reality of today's society is that we cannot always trust people as much as we would like. So how do you protect yourself and your family? Short of hiring a private investigator, which can cost several hundred or even thousands of dollars, there are some simple things you can do to perform a cursory background check.

  1. Check the Texas sex offender registry. This will only provide you those sex offenders that have registered. Some offenders fail to register, particularly if they are out-of-state; they will not be included.
  2. Check the national sex offender website:
  3. You can do a criminal history search on the Texas Department of Public Safety website (there is a fee):
  4. For a small fee,you can use public records services such as,, or many other services you can find doing a Google search.
  5. Check the local jail records. Below are the Collin County, Dallas County and Denton County links:
  6. Do a Google search.

While the thought of digging into someone's background may make you feel uncomfortable, your personal safety and that of your family is worth it.

If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers at (940) 293-2313.

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