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Can Having a DUI/DWI Affect My Child Custody During a Divorce?

Child custody cases largely fall under the discretion of the state, and the state has a legal obligation to always rule in favor of the best interests of the children involved in any child custody case. Depending on each parent’s financial situation, criminal backgrounds, and relationships to their children, the state seeks to rule in favor of custody agreements that provide children with the safest, most stable upbringing.

Parents’ behaviors can easily influence a child custody agreement. Depending on how amicable the divorcing parents feel about the situation, divorce proceedings may be simple or an ugly, stressful, and time-consuming mess for everyone involved. Regardless of how a set of divorced parents reaches a custody agreement, the agreement is not set in stone. Either parent may request modifications to a child custody agreement in the future for changing life circumstances or to prevent an unfit parent from harming the children.

DUIs and Child Custody

If a parent has a record of a DUI or DWI prior to divorce proceedings, he or she should expect this history to come up during child custody negotiations. The state will need to see the parent does not have an addiction or otherwise pose a threat to the safety and well-being of the children in the case. Additionally, a parent who incurs a DUI or DWI after securing custody of his or her children may put his or her custody rights in jeopardy.

When a parent has more than one DUI conviction on his or her record, this can be very convincing evidence he or she poses a risk to his or her children, potentially leading to the other parent securing majority or physical custody of the children. A parent who has partial custody or physical custody over his or her children may not lose custody for a single DUI unless the offense was especially serious, involved an extreme DUI, or the parent had his or her children in the car at the time.

Any DUI charge will beg the questions of dependency and abuse. If one parent receives a DUI conviction, the other may use this as leverage in an appeal to the child custody agreement and seek a greater share of custody.

Tips for Handling DUI Issues During or After Divorce

Anyone who incurs a DUI violation during divorce or child custody proceedings or whose ex-spouse incurs such a violation should know what to expect from the situation.

  • If your ex receives a DUI conviction you need to ensure he or she does not pose a risk to your children. If there is any room for doubt, contact a divorce attorney to start compiling an appeal on your child custody agreement.
  • If you receive a DUI as a first offense, contact a DUI attorney immediately after arrest. It may be possible to avoid a DUI conviction and plead down to a lower charge like reckless driving if you agree to attend substance abuse counseling or attend a drug and alcohol safety course for drivers.
  • Avoid drinking and driving at all times. This is sound advice for anyone, but especially true for parents awaiting a divorce or managing a child custody agreement. There is no way to predict how significant an impact a DUI or DWI conviction can have on your child custody agreement. There is an abundance of safe alternatives to DUI such as rideshare programs and public transportation.

Anyone with questions or concerns about a child custody case, a recent DUI conviction, or what to expect from a child custody agreement appeal should meet with an experienced divorce attorney as soon as possible. If your ex poses a risk to your children due to repeated drunk driving, you must take appropriate measures to protect them. If you received a first-time DUI charge or need help for substance abuse, a divorce attorney can potentially secure the help you need and minimize changes to your child custody agreement.